If at first you don’t succeed!

Success at last. For several years, whilst in the French Alps I have tried making bread, with or without a prepared mix, with very much mixed results.

When we first came here, about 13 years ago, the bread man came on by every morning, but with so few residents here it proved not to be worth his while and came no more.

For many years Himself would then drive down the 7 hairpins to the Boulangerie, The trouble with this was a) in the winter, 7 extra hairpins in the snow before the snowplough had been and b) baquettes go stale very quickly.

Finally I resorted to a bread machine. I made bread using standard ingredients and dried yeast or I made bread with a ready prepared mix. But with mixed results. What to do, what to do? It was a bit of a conundrum. Buy bread on a weekly basis, pop into the freezer and defrost when needed.

Last summer I spent extended periods, making sourdough starter. All seemed to go well until cooked and then disaster. But then I discovered in the UK Sourdough bread mix! Ok not exactly the same and cheating to boot, but how would it work in the mountains.

With all of this bread making attempts in the mountains, I learnt a very valuable lesson. Baking at altitude is not the same as at sea level. Adjustments have to be made.

Lower air pressure at altitude causes air bubbles trapped in the mixture to rise at a faster rate. When this happens the cake/ bread rises very fast and high, and then collapses, result disaster, dense and dry. Cakes and breads with yeast, rise quickly, so proofing times need to be reduced as well. Only fill tins, if cake making half full as they can easily overflow.

Our Mountain home is at an altitude of almost 4000 feet and so several adjustments have to be made.

  • For cakes:-
  • Reduce Baking Powder by 1/8 tsp for each tsp needed
  • Reduce sugar by 1 tablespoon for every 4 oz
  • Increase liquid by 2 tablespoons for every 200 mls
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 F

The higher you are the more adjustments have to be made.

So today, using my English sourdough mix and a bread maker ( just for the kneading process,) I tried again and YES! It worked. I increased the water, and I used olive oil instead of butter. The machine kneaded for about 1 hour 30. I set the oven at 220 put in the cast iron pan to reheat so that it was hot and ready to go as soon as the bread machine beeped. Popped the dough in the hot pan, put on the lid, waited for about 20 minutes, removed lid and returned to the oven until the bread was a beautiful shade of brown !

Cheating Yes! Easy Yes! Way forward, Yes, here for sure !

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