We live over 4,500 feet above sea level. This means that I have had to tweak my baking a bit. My bread though... My bread has never turned out that great since we moved here, no matter how many different things I have tried, until my sister-in-law shared her recipe with me and some helpful tips!
So I thought I would share with you too in case you have the same dilemma or are just looking for a good bread recipe. This has been adapted from the whole wheat bread recipe that used to be on the back of the King Arthur Flour bag. In my SIL's words:
This recipe makes one loaf.
2 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
Approximately 3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
(1/4 cup flax meal)--this is not part of the original recipe but if I have it I like to put it into the bread.
More often then not, I make this by hand so this is the way I make it. You may find that a different technique works better for you.
1. Run the hot tap water until it steams. Measure your water and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, honey, and salt.
2. Add around a cup of flour and mix for about 30 seconds. (This can be done in a large stand up mixer, or with a small hand mixer, or just a wire whisk, etc.)
3. Add the yeast. cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
4. After 10 minutes, add the dried milk and flax if using. I never measure the flour--instead I just add about a cup at a time and keep mixing until the dough is formed. If you're using a standing mixer it's usually until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, but will still sort of "stick" to the bottom. My big mixer died so I start with a small hand mixer until the dough gets too thick. Then I just dump it out onto a clean counter and add/mix the flour by hand. I know that I've added enough flour when the dough is moist and my hand sort of "sticks" to it, but I can easily pull my hand away without taking any dough with it. Knead for about 5-10 minutes.
5. Using a large bowl, (you can use the one you mixed the dough in if you want). Either generously spray the bowl with a non-stick cooking spray, or spread a thin layer of vegetable oil around the bowl, or grease the bowl with vegetable shortening--your choice. Then place the dough in the bowl, turning it a few times to coat the dough. Generally what I like to do is turn the oven on for only a minute, while I'm greasing the bowl, just to warm it up.
6. Place the dough in the oven and cover once again with a clean dish towel and let rise for an hour to an hour and a half, (or longer) until the dough has doubled in bulk. When it's rounded over the top of the bowl then I know it's done.
7. What I do next is spread a little oil, or shortening on the counter. Then I dump the dough out onto the counter and punch it down. Roll it into a log and divide into loaves, (if making more than one).
8. Place the loaves into a greased bread pan(s) and press down flat into the pan, until the dough fills the corners and it's level on the top. I've found that this helps with air bubbles and gives the loaves a more uniform shape.
If you live at high altitudes follow these changes: Halfway through baking time when you drape the foil on top turn the oven down from 350 to 325 and extend the cooking time 5-10 minutes.
I really like how the recipe calls for shaping the loaves with shortening instead of more flour. It really helps you not dry out the bread with too much flour. The flax seed is a nice touch. I think adds that extra fat from the flax, along with the shortening for loaf shaping technique, helps it not be so crumbly either. I used white wheat flour and it tastes delicious!
Let me know if you try it!