Mountain Town Bakers Tackle the Art of Bread and Pastry at Elevation | Outside Magazine


"Two states to the south in New Mexico, Andre and Jessica Kempton of Wild Leaven Bakery, which has locations in Taos and Santa Fe, know baking at 7,000 feet. “Things up here have less air pressure pushing down on them,” explains Andre, the head baker. “If you’re dealing with breads, doughs, batters, cakes—those will rise quicker, and there might not be enough structure in the gluten to hold it up, so it collapses.” Andre, who bakes a few hundred long-fermented loaves each day, underscores the importance of knowing the alt­itude you’re baking at—and calculating whether modifications need to be made.

Case in point: compare the atmospheric pressure at sea level (14,000 PSIA, or pounds per square inch absolute) with your location and you can figure how long it takes for dough to rise. For example, in Taos, Andre contends with a PSIA of 10,000 (or about 30 percent less air pressure than at sea level), which is equivalent to “a 30 percent reduction in rise time,” he explains, pleased to have an equation at the ready. Ultimately, he concedes, baking at any altitude is an art, one that’s ultimately about experience, feel, and flexibility."