How to Make High-Altitude Sourdough Bread (2022)

by Heather

Elevation has many different effects on bread, and if you’re living at high-altitude and using a regular sourdough recipe, you’re likely running into challenges.

I know this, because I’m living it! I live in Golden, Colorado which is at 5,700 ft. When I first moved here I struggled with getting consistent results – my bread would come out flat, the dough was super sticky and impossible to shape, and I was getting super frustrated.

In this post, we’ll talk about what issues bakers at elevation tend to deal with, and why these factors even come into play.

Then we’ll discuss some changes that you can make when baking sourdough at high altitudes, and we’ll finish with a sourdough recipe specifically crafted for high-altitude baking based on my experience of baking at elevation.

So let’s get started!

High-elevation challenges

The most common struggles that high-altitude home bakers deal with are:

  1. Struggling with shaping super sticky, wet dough
  2. Having trouble scoring their “pancake-like” dough
  3. Baking loaves that are wide and flat
  4. Complete lack of oven spring
  5. Dense crumb
Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough, baked using the recipe below + cinnamon and raisins

Surprisingly, these five issues all boil down to ONE cause: over-fermentation! Let’s review:

  1. If your dough is super sticky and impossible to shape, it’s likely too high of a hydration, which caused it to become over-fermented at your high elevation. (Remember, the more water in a sourdough recipe, the faster the dough ferments – this is a bad thing when baking at elevation!)
  2. When you score your dough and it spreads out like a pancake, it’s over-fermented. This isn’t the worst thing in the world – those breads still taste pretty good – but it’s frustrating if you’re after better oven spring and more open crumb.
  3. The moment of truth arrives and you’re taking the lid off your Dutch oven only to find that your bread didn’t rise at all, and is a wide flat disc. Blame over-fermentation again! That dough has given all it could before it even landed in the oven, so it had nothing more to help it rise, hence the spreading out.
  4. A complete lack of oven spring is closely intertwined with #3 above. Dough that’s over-fermented has no more leavening power left once it’s put in the oven, so it simply doesn’t rise.
  5. As a result of over-fermentation, again, the crumb may be dense due to the lack of leavening power of your dough. The taller your loaf, generally, the easier it is to achieve a great crumb.

This is shocking, isn’t it? That all of these problems and challenges all come down to one simple oversight. This is what I dealt with for the first year of my sourdough adventures, until I got the courage to start experimenting with recipes and making my own.

Why elevation affects sourdough bread

Before we dive into this, please know I am not a scientist! I am presenting this information as I know it to be true, and that is anecdotally. I’m not able to delve into why there’s less oxygen at high elevation, for example, but what I do know and have learned from experience is summarized below.

Dry air = dry ingredients

High elevations are notoriously drier than their sea-level counterparts. For example, on any given summer day here in Golden, the humidity is usually between 10-20%. Further south and further east in South Carolina, for example, the humidity is typically 65-80% or even higher. The dry air here affects more than just your skin: cooking ingredients are much drier, and flour is no exception. 

Clearly, humidity levels have a big effect on flour. This will come to light when we add our water to our flour. There have been times when I’ve tried to make a lower hydration dough (60-65%) and it was just impossible because my flour soaked up every ounce of water and was still dry! Because of this factor, I like to shoot for a 70-75% hydration. I find it’s enough to soak the flour, but not so much that I risk over-fermentation.

Sourdough at high elevation

Fermentation happens faster at higher elevations

Don’t ask me why, but it seems to be true. I first realized this when I kept pulling flat loaves out of the oven, and reached out to a local sourdough baker for some guidance. He told me that my dough is likely over-fermented even though I was following the recipe exactly, and that it was probably due to being at elevation. Who knew?

And so, cautiously, I started experimenting with adjusting my bulk fermentation times. I reduced the time by 15 minutes, then 15 minutes more, than a half hour, then another half hour. Amazingly, my breads came out better, taller, and more consistent as I shaved more time off the bulk.

Then I started playing with increasing the number of folds to help build structure but within the same time period as before. So, for example, where I would have folded the dough every 30 minutes for two hours (a total of four folds), I started folding the dough every 20 minutes for 2 hours (a total of six folds). 

By adding in two folds but not increasing the time, I was able to build stronger gluten networks and not over-ferment my dough.

The High-Elevation Sourdough Bread recipe below is based on these experiments and discoveries. Feel free to play with your own adjustments as well! Learn from my mistakes but be confident in adjusting your own times and folds to better suit your climate.

How to Make High-Altitude Sourdough Bread

What changes are most important?

The two changes I made that had the biggest impact on my bread were reducing my hydration and shortening my bulk fermentation. These two adjustments are very easy to do, and if you find success with these tweaks, please let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about your experience with baking sourdough at high altitude and also if you’ve played with any further changes.

With all that being said, let’s get baking!

Oh, and by the way, if you’re looking for some more help understanding hydration, click here to check out The Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough Hydration.

And don’t forget I have a whole page of resources available to help you in your sourdough journey – click here to find it!

High-Elevation Sourdough Bread

If you live at elevation, you'll have to make some adjustments to your sourdough recipe in order to achieve consistent results. The two biggest changes are reducing hydration and shortening bulk fermentation time. These changes aren't absolutely necessary, but they will help you avoid struggles that are common with high-elevation baking.
5 from 30 votes
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Resting Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 1 hr 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 3 loaves


  • 200 grams Leaven
  • 700 grams Warm water (80°F) reserve 50g
  • 900 grams All-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 100 grams Whole wheat flour
  • 22 grams Salt


Day One: Leaven Day

  • Before bedtime, build your leaven. Weigh 100 grams of lukewarm water in a mason jar and add 50 grams of your healthy, active starter, which you fed this morning (8-12 hours ago). Don't use freshly fed starter, it is not mature enough.
  • Screw the lid on the jar and shake to incorporate the starter. Open your jar and add 50 grams whole wheat flour and 50 grams white flour (all-purpose or bread flour). Stir with a butter knife or spatula until all flour is incorporated.
  • Place the lid lightly on the jar – don't screw it on! – and leave on the counter to ferment overnight.

Day Two: Mix Day

  • Place your mixing bowl on the scale and weigh 650g of the water and 200g of your leaven. Using your hand, incorporate the leaven a bit by squeezing it through your fingers. Save the rest of your leaven as discard to use in discard recipes, if desired.
  • Add both flours and mix dough together with your hand. Mix until you don't see any more dry flour in the bowl. The dough will become sticky, so it's useful to keep one hand clean. Dunk your clean hand in water, and remove the sticky dough from your other hand. Then dip your dough spatula in water and scrape the edges of the bowl, making it as clean as possible.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. This is called the autolyse, which allows the flours to absorb the water, activating the enzymes which begins the gluten development. This step is critical and cannot be rushed.
  • After the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the dough and then add the remaining 50g of water. Poke your fingers into the dough to press some salt deep inside, then fold over itself about a dozen times or so to incorporate the salt. Cover the bowl again; the bulk fermentation has begun. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
  • The high-elevation bulk fermentation takes 2.5 – 3 hours. During the first two hours of the bulk fermentation, the dough must be folded six times, or every 20 minutes. This is similar to kneading but is much more gentle to preserve the natural gases that become captured in the dough, and is much easier on the baker. It's also two extra folds than a regular sourdough recipe, but within the same time period.
  • To fold the dough, first imagine your bowl as a compass: the edge furthest from you is north, the right edge is east, the closest edge to you is south, and the left edge is west. Dip your hand in water and reach under the dough at the east point. Grabbing it gently but firmly, pull the dough out to the east and then fold it over itself toward the west. Rotate the bowl a quarter-turn, and repeat. Do this for each "corner" of your compass, then cover with a kitchen towel.
  • Set your timer for 20 minutes, and repeat the process five more times.
  • Your dough now gets to rest, covered and untouched, for 30-60 minutes. During this time, flavor and strength is developed, so don't rush this step. However, this is where over-fermentation can occur, so the higher your elevation, the shorter this period should be. I live at 5,700 feet and I usually let my dough rest for 45 minutes.
  • After the bulk fermentation, pull all the dough onto a floured work surface using a dough spatula. With your bench knife, cut the dough into three even pieces. Scrape the bench knife under one piece, and move it away from the other.
  • The pieces now need to be pre-shaped. Working with one piece at a time, pull the west side of the dough out and fold it toward the east. Then pull the east side out and fold it over and toward the west. Rotate your dough 90°, and repeat. Do the same for the remaining piece(s), then lightly dust with flour and cover with a kitchen towel. This prevents a skin from forming on the outside of the dough. Let rest for 30 minutes. This is called the bench rest.
  • For the final shaping, care must be taken not to deflate the dough. Gently rub off any excess flour – the top of the dough will become the inside of the loaf, so you don't want any extra flour inside. Just as in the pre-shaping, pull the west side of the dough out and fold it toward the east. Then pull the east side out and fold it over and toward the west. Rotate your dough 90°, and repeat. Flip the loaf so it is seam side down on your work surface, and using both hands, twist the dough as you tuck it under itself. There are great YouTube videos with different techniques for this, but the goal is the same: to increase the surface tension without tearing the dough. You'll feel the dough tighten as you do this. Repeat for the remaining piece.
  • Line your proofing baskets or medium-size bowls with basket liners or clean linen kitchen towels. Lightly dust them with rice flour (all-purpose flour isn't as good as rice flour for this job, but it could work if that's all you heave – use it generously!), covering the sides and bottom. This prevents the dough from sticking when you flip it out. Lift each piece of dough with the bench knife and flip it gently into the basket, so the seams are facing up.
  • Now begins the final rise. You can cover the loaves and leave them on the counter for 3-4 hours if you'd like to bake today. However, what I recommend is using your refrigerator to slow the final rise so you can bake in the morning. This is called cold-proofing. To do this, slide each basket into their own plastic grocery or produce bag, and place in the fridge overnight. The plastic is used to prevent fridge odors from absorbing into the dough, and to prevent a skin from forming on the dough. The dough will continue to ferment over the next 8-12 hours.

Day Three: Bake Day

  • In the morning, put your baking vessel and lid in the oven and preheat to 500°F. It's ideal to let your oven sit at 500°F for 30-40 minutes beyond the preheating phase, so your baking vessel is screaming hot. When it's ready, remove a basket from the fridge.
  • Take a minute to get your things ready: Prepare a square of parchment paper on a thin cutting board, bring the flour close by, and have your bread lame (or razor blade) ready to go.
  • Place the parchment square on the basket, place your hand on top, and gently flip the dough out into your hand. Place the dough on the cutting board. Dust the dough with flour and lightly rub it around the sides and top.
  • Holding the lame at a 45° angle, score your loaf. This takes practice. Hold the cutting board with one hand as you slice the furthest corner of the blade into the dough. The easiest and most effective scores are a deep line about an inch or two from the bottom, running half the circumference of the dough, or a simple square. See my post on Scoring Techniques.
  • Wearing heavy duty oven mitts, pull out your oven rack and remove the lid from your baking vessel. Working quickly but carefully, transfer the dough into the pan by holding the cutting board over it and pulling on the parchment. Replace the lid, reduce the oven temperature to 475°F, and set the timer for 30 minutes.
  • When the time is up, carefully remove the lid from the pan and continue baking uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • When the loaf is done, transfer it to a wire cooling rack. If you don't have one, tip it on its side so air can circulate around the bottom. To test doneness, knock on the bottom of the loaf: it should sound hollow. Allow it to cool for at least an hour or two before slicing so it can cool completely. Hot bread does not slice well.
  • Set the oven temperature back to 500°F, and put both pieces of your baking vessel back in the oven. Let these heat for 10 minutes, then repeat above steps for your other basket of dough. Congratulations, you just made sourdough at elevation!
Keyword High-Altitude, Sourdough

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Amy September 15, 2020 - 7:31 pm

5 stars
This saved me from abandoning sourdough altogether. My home in New Mexico sits at 5720 ft. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong! Thanks so much for the step-by-step. The salt timing, I believe, was critical.
Cheers! 🌼

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 9:06 pm

Thank you for this wonderful review, Amy! Happy baking 🙂

Sarah Yerkes January 16, 2021 - 7:26 pm

5 stars
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I was about to give up! I’m at 4800ft and I thought I just didn’t have a knack for bread! Turns out I just needed you!

Heather February 1, 2021 - 3:23 pm

Wonderful, Sarah! I’m so happy to hear it! 🙂

Lynne January 6, 2022 - 1:25 pm

5 stars
Hi from Lafayette CO! I’ve never baked bread in my life, heard sourdough is tricky, and your recipe came out perfectly for me. I am thrilled, honestly the best bread I’ve ever had, thank you so much!

One question – I’m super sad the Med in Boulder closed down due to covid and I miss their olive bread. Can I add whole kalamata olives to this recipe, or do need to adjust anything to account for increased volume/moisture/etc?

Heather January 21, 2022 - 2:05 pm

Hi Lynne, thank you for this review!
You can add drained olives during your last fold or your preshape! No need to adjust anything. Good luck!

Dan Brown October 10, 2020 - 3:04 pm

5 stars
I’ve been trying to bake a sourdough bread at a high altitude 5,600 ft. Wit some good results and bad. Then a found three three recipes for high altitude sourdough bread. Tried them all.
This by far is the best recipe. The crumb, flavor and color superb. The bread wasn’t dense on the bottom a real plus. Gave samples to my neighbors and they loved it.
If anyone is at a high altitude you must try this.

Dan Brown October 16, 2020 - 3:42 pm

Beast. I lost your comment about using the challenger bread pan at high altitude. You said to make it at 450 with lid. That’s all I remember.
Do you know the rest
Thanks Dan

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 8:52 pm

With the Challenger Bread Pan, I preheat to 475F and bake at 450F for 30 minutes with the lid on, then 15 minutes with the lid off. Hope this helps!

Shelby April 9, 2021 - 7:22 am

Can I use solely bread flour/all purpose flour?

PS I live in Golden also!

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:37 am

Yes, you can!

P.S. Hi neighbor!

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 9:01 pm

Thank you for this lovely review, Dan!

Angela October 11, 2020 - 8:33 pm

5 stars
I live about 2000 feet (600 meters) above sea level and I have been struggling to get that really good oven rise and open lacy texture. I have now baked your High Altitude Sourdough recipe twice and it has turned out amazing both times. I got rave reviews from my husband and our friends. Thank you for this recipe. I wish I could send you some pictures of my bread and the open texture.

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 8:57 pm

Hi Angela, thank you for this review! If you’re on Facebook, come join us on the Sourdough Mamas group and show us your beautiful breads! 🙂

Nigel October 18, 2020 - 8:21 am

Wow, thank you for the information, I can hardly believe the difference. I live at 2500m / 8200ft. I have ben making sourdough for a while now, with OK results, using a pizza stone a standard oven and a tray with water.

Recently I switched to using a large Dutch oven and my sourdough has been quite flat and doughy. But having read your article, I reduced the hydration by 50ml and reduced the fermentation by 20 mins and now I have very airy sourdough and tall too.

My quantities (using all purpose flour) are 1kg flour, 550ml water, 23gms salt, which make two loaves.

Thanks again for a great article.

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 8:50 pm

Wonderful, Nigel! Baking at altitude can be frustrating, to say the least. I’m so glad you found this helpful.

Natalie Pertsovsky October 24, 2020 - 8:01 am

Hi! I’m about to make my first loaf at altitude and came across your recipe! I’m wondering how long the leaven should rest? How many hours?

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 8:49 pm

I wouldn’t let the leaven rest any longer than 12 hours if you can help it! Best of luck with your first bake, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Natalie Pertsovsky October 24, 2020 - 3:16 pm

What would the measurements be if I want to make just one loaf?

leavenly October 24, 2020 - 8:48 pm

Hi Natlie! You can just take each measurement and divide it by 3 if you’d like just one loaf!

Angie November 2, 2020 - 6:04 pm

Absolutely THRILLED that I’ve come across your webpage and your HIGH ELEVATION SOURDOUGH!!! It has been a total game changer for me and beyond rewarding, when that puppy comes out of the Dutch oven♥️ Question though…can I push my overnight fridge final rise past 12 hours???? Trying to see how I can stretch my bake time.

leavenly November 3, 2020 - 8:01 am

Hi Angie, you can definitely lengthen the cold proofing time! I would play with increasing it slowly, and maybe cap it off at 24 hours. I find 12-18 hours is perfect for me. And I’m so glad you found this recipe helpful! Thanks for the lovely review!

Chris December 24, 2021 - 4:43 am

5 stars
Hi there! Just confirming that this comment was correct at 12-18 hrs with the instructions above saying 8-12 hrs. Any benefit to going longer or shorter when it comes to flavor? My starter has a slight tangy/sour smell but not very strong despite being a month old, so any tips on that I’d take as well. Thanks so much! This recipe worked well the first time for me and I’m now onto the second.
– Chris in Ft. Collins

Heather January 2, 2022 - 8:27 pm

Hi Chris! Honestly you’re fine going with either. It’s really about what works best for your schedule, so if that’s 8-12 or 12-18, either would be good! You’ll definitely get more sour flavor the longer you leave it in the fridge. I would start around the 12 hour mark, and if you have good rise, increase your fridge time by 4 hours, increasing with each subsequent bake until you either reach the flavor profile you like or your bread isn’t rising as high (and if that’s the case, pull back by 4 hours). Shoot me an email at and we can work out your starter issues!

Rachel Lombard November 15, 2020 - 9:21 am

Do you have any suggestions for an evaluation of 1064 feet. The last loaf I made didn’t raise and was very dense, and seemed overly salty, but the recipe was followed perfectly.

leavenly November 15, 2020 - 7:37 pm

Hi Rachel, did you follow this recipe?

Paul November 17, 2020 - 11:25 am

Do you have any recommendations for temperatures and cook times for someone who has access to a combi oven. I have variable control over steam and heat. I seem to overcook the crust and undercook the crumb. I have costs people die over but the bread is inedible due to the wrong cook times. I was always advised to add cook time for higher elevations.

leavenly November 17, 2020 - 8:42 pm

First of all, I’m super jealous of your combi oven! That said, I have zero experience with combi ovens unfortunately. If your crust is overcooked and your crumb is undercooked, maybe try playing with baking in a Dutch oven – this way the crust is protected from the direct heat for the first portion of the bake while the steam works its magic on the crust, and then the direct heat during the last portion of the bake helps harden and darken the crust. Each portion is adjustable – I have 30 minutes with lid on and 15 minutes with lid off, but some people do the complete opposite, 15 minutes with lid on and 30 minutes with lid off. I’m not sure if you have a Dutch oven so this may not even be helpful for you – keep me posted!

Alex November 17, 2020 - 6:09 pm

5 stars
I am so excited to have finally made bread that doesn’t look like a hockey puck! Thank you! I made a multigrain sourdough using your instructions, and it was excellent. I live in Albuquerque and between the altitude and the dryness, I’ve been struggling with my bread baking, despite making corrections for the altitude. But now I finally succeeded.

leavenly November 17, 2020 - 8:30 pm

This makes me so happy! Thank you so much for the review, Alex! Happy baking 🙂

Alex November 30, 2020 - 12:16 pm

5 stars
It makes me happy too! I just made your original recipe this morning, and it’s excellent.

Heather December 1, 2020 - 3:58 pm

Thanks, Alex! I’m glad it was helpful for you.

Peter November 22, 2020 - 2:29 pm

5 stars
Thank you Leavenly! These are small changes but have a huge impact on the end result. I suspected altitude was having an impact and had no idea how to correct – I had seen another blog on this subject but it didn’t help.

No longer frustrated and achieving spectacular oven spring. Thank you for posting these great tips.

Heather November 23, 2020 - 5:32 pm

Wonderful, Peter! Thank you for this fantastic review. I’m glad you had such great success with this guide!

Rona November 30, 2020 - 11:13 am

Hi, thanks so much for this information! I also bake at 5000 ft and I am wondering if you would do any adjustments of whole wheat flour? Would you stay with the same hydration of use more hydration? Thanks in advance!

Heather December 1, 2020 - 3:59 pm

Hi Rona, I’ve found that using a lower hydration is best at altitude because the risk of overfermentation is higher. This is the only adjustment I make! But, as always, if you increase the ratio of whole wheat flour, you’ll need to increase hydration as well. I hope this helps!

Maureen December 2, 2020 - 6:40 pm

Hello! Thank you so much for this. We are in Littleton, CO. The problem my husband is having is growing his (first ever) starter. He thinks he may have not fed it enough but I was wondering if there’s anything he should consider about high altitude as he does this? Thanks!

Heather December 8, 2020 - 12:03 pm

Hi Maureen, I haven’t found much of a difference with starter at altitude, we just suffer the same old problems that everyone else does 😛 For my starter, I use 30g starter and feed it with 60g water and 60g flours (50/50 white/wheat). That’s a 1:2:2 ratio, and that’s what my starter likes. His might be a bit different, and since he’s still starting out, I would use 50g starter and feed it with 100g water and 100g flours. I have a sourdough starter course that he might find helpful! You can find that here.

Genie December 5, 2020 - 10:00 am

5 stars
Hello! This has been so helpful in adapting to recently moving to 6000ft – thank you! I find that my leaven often doesn’t pass the float test. After resting on the counter overnight (~10 hrs). Any thoughts / tips / tricks to try? Thanks!

Heather December 8, 2020 - 11:59 am

Hi Genie, do you feed your starter intensely before building your leaven? My starter Goldie loves a daily 1:2:2 feed, but when I’m preparing to build a leaven, I feed her twice a day for two days to really amp up the activity. That would be my first suggestion. Let me know how it works for you, and thanks for the comment!

Martha December 10, 2020 - 8:18 pm

I tried another sourdough recipe with modest results (great taste, but not a lot of spring) … would like to try yours next! What size Dutch oven did you use when making the 3 loaves?

Heather December 10, 2020 - 9:43 pm

Hi Martha, I hope you have more success with this method! I now use the Challenger Bread Pan to make one loaf at a time, but I used to use the 3.2-quart Lodge cast iron combo cooker. I hope this helps! 🙂

Martha December 11, 2020 - 9:40 am

Thanks, Heather — me too! I just ordered a 4-qt, so I think that will do. Might take your other suggestion above and make 1/3 the recipe to start. Happy Holidays to you from another Jeffco neighbor. 🙂

Heather December 13, 2020 - 3:36 pm

Best of luck, Martha!

Andrea December 12, 2020 - 2:47 pm

Hi Heather
Your comments resonate with what I’ve observed at 1600+ m above sea level. And in winter the air is so very dry. Shortening the bulk ferment helped reduce the over fermentation. Now I plan to try your recipe tips with folds more often too.

Heather December 13, 2020 - 3:36 pm

Thank you for your comment, Andrea! I’m so glad these tips worked for you 🙂

Audra December 22, 2020 - 4:12 pm

I’m at 8,000 feet and have had spotty luck with sourdough. Your recipe makes a lot of sense!
However, after the last fold the dough didn’t rise at all. I waited a little over an hour and have now moved on to the bench rest. I didn’t test my levean before using it, and just read your comment about feeding it 2x per day beforehand. We will see what happens–Fingers crossed!

Heather December 28, 2020 - 2:54 pm

Hi Audra! I’m surprised that your dough didn’t rise after the last fold; it definitely sounds like your starter or leaven weren’t quite ready. How did it turn out?

Lisa December 23, 2020 - 2:01 pm

5 stars
I’m on my second batch using your high altitude tips with amazing results. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your findings. I love all of your recipes and have sent many SD enthusiasts to your site. Happy baking!!

Heather December 28, 2020 - 2:52 pm

Thank you so much, Lisa! I’m glad you had good results from this method 🙂

Emily January 4, 2021 - 11:46 am

5 stars
I live in Golden as well. If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I would hug you. I had to adjust cook times a bit but this is the first sourdough that I have made that has not turned into a hybrid hockey puck/water cracker. Thanks!

Heather January 9, 2021 - 9:20 pm

Wonderful, Emily! I struggled so much with this recipe for YEARS until I finally nailed it. I’m so happy to share it with others so that frustrating struggle can be avoided! 🙂

Colette January 6, 2021 - 8:04 am

5 stars
Your high altitude recipe is amazing!!! Been playing with sourdough for over a month now and getting mediocre results. I really wanted a great loaf that I could produce consistently. So I bought a Emil Henry Italian loaf pan and it was great. But when I combined that with your recipe, the results couldn’t be better!

I was worried that my altitude wasn’t as high as yours, only 4100 ft, so I thought I might have to make some adjustments the other direction. The only thing I changed is that I bulk fermented for an hour instead of 45 minutes. I also do my baking prep in the mornings, so I refrigerated between steps where I needed to create a break and go to work.

The extra water and salt that is added after the autolyze (and good direction that I believed on cook times, temps) feels like it made all the difference on getting the dough to behave how it was “supposed” to.

Thank you so much for the badly needed help and super clear directions!!

Heather January 9, 2021 - 9:21 pm

Hi Colette, thanks so much for this amazing review! I’m so glad the recipe works so well for you and I wish you the best in your baking in the future!

Michaela Bruzzese January 9, 2021 - 7:25 am

5 stars
Hi Heather,
First thank you so much for sharing all your sourdough wisdom—it’s a godsend for us newbies!
I made 2 great loaves using your methods for high altitude (Albuquerque) yesterday and they were very good. Now waiting on the third, which I cold fermented for around 19 hours….I’m hoping that wasn’t too long?! It’s looking a little flat at the moment, but here’s hoping!! Thanks again!

Heather January 9, 2021 - 9:28 pm

Hi Michaela, you can cold proof up to 72 hours if needed! The longer you cold proof, the more sour the bread will be, and also keep in mind that fermentation does still happen under refrigeration so it’s still possible to overferment. I usually shoot for 18ish hours myself, so 19 sounds perfect to me! I hope it turned out and I’m glad you find the recipe helpful! 🙂

Michaela Bruzzese January 9, 2021 - 2:59 pm

I would like to use this recipe and divide it into TWO loaves instead of 3—should I make adjustments to the baking time? Or anything else? Thank you.

Heather January 14, 2021 - 7:35 am

Hi Michaela, that would be fine and you shouldn’t have to make any adjustments to baking times! Just make sure you test the inside of your bread; it should be at least 200*F when done!

Kate January 12, 2021 - 3:24 am

5 stars
I have been trying to bake sourdough at 8000ft for months and couldn’t work out why after leaving for the recommended time my dough was so wet I had to pour it rather than shape it. This recipe has helped a lot, my bread is still a little dense but I’m experimenting (my climate is high but it can still be very humid and is the temperature can fluctuate between 5 Celsius and 25 Celsius day to day which doesn’t help). Although not perfect my bread is now actually edible which is great and the knowledge of how altitude impacts baking has helped me understand why even things like cakes and cookies often fail.

Heather January 14, 2021 - 7:06 am

Wonderful, Kate! It’s definitely a challenge for us at elevation. One adjustment I made with my cookies is to reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3. I used to use 3/4 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup white sugar, but since moving to Colorado I learned to decrease it to 1/2 cup each, and my cookies come out much less flat after making that adjustment!

Leo January 15, 2021 - 3:50 pm

Hi.. I live in the Denver area as well so we’re sort-of neighbors… Do you keep your starter at 100% hydration? I’ve had my starter at 140% hydration for years and have been baking this way since we’re in a drier climate but thinking of experimenting with 100% ratio again – I’m just thinking it’d be too sticky and dry… My 140% starter has a pancake batter consistency at 6000 feet. Thanks!

Heather February 1, 2021 - 3:19 pm

Hi Leo! I do keep mine at 100% hydration. If you try it you will notice it’s a bit thicker, but it thins out as the starter eats through the flour. When mine is freshly fed, it’s thick but not difficult to stir, almost like cookie dough! Hope this helps 🙂

James January 19, 2021 - 11:47 am

5 stars
*Great Recipe* I am new to Sourdough bread making and had tried a few recipes I saw on line. After a few failed attempts, I found the Leavenly site and tried the High Altitude recipe as we are in Fort Collins Co. Wow what a difference. I am now confident enough to try different recipes and options having Heathers recipe as a foundation.
Thank you

Heather February 1, 2021 - 3:24 pm

Hi James, thanks so much for this lovely comment! I’m so happy the recipe worked for you up there in Fort Collins 🙂

Jennifer January 24, 2021 - 10:57 am

5 stars
Finally a high altitude recipe that works! I live at 6800 feet and have been struggling. I baked so many hockey pucks and flat gummy loaves it became a joke. The first time I followed this recipe was my first success; three lovely yummy loaves. I have played around a bit since and find that if I follow this almost to the letter it just makes such good bread. I’m pretty sure it is all about the hydration. I was feeling confident and tried a higher hydration and the hockey pucks were back.

I have found the following very minor alterations work at my higher altitude to help with oven spring:
45 minute autolyse
30 minute only rest after last fold
Take loaf our of fridge 1 hour before baking

Heather – thank you for this recipe!!

Heather February 1, 2021 - 3:30 pm

Thank you for your comment Jennifer! I’m so glad you’re able to bake amazing bread at 6,800 feet. Congrats!

Charity January 30, 2021 - 6:55 pm

5 stars
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your recipe and tips for sourdough at high elevation! I am in Parker, and this recipe was exactly what I was looking for! I have made this twice and both times the loaves turned out amazing! Hubby and I took a loaf out in one evening! I have tried it both with the overnight proof and the 3 to 4 hour proof and loved the results of both!

Heather February 1, 2021 - 3:15 pm

Excellent!! Thanks, Charity!

Leah February 15, 2021 - 10:31 am

5 stars
Thank you so much for this! I spent a year baking and pondering why my sourdough was flat and dense after following instructions carefully. My starter was so healthy I just couldn’t figure it out. It must have been the elevation! I was SHOCKED when I lifted the lid and found a risen dough in the oven. Most beautiful thing I saw all day.

Heather February 16, 2021 - 11:04 am

Yay! I’m so happy you had such success. Thank you for this review and congrats on your beautiful bread!

mea February 21, 2021 - 1:39 pm

5 stars
Thank you so much for this! I have been living in Mexico City (7,350ft) and have been trying and trying to get the sourdough to rise without success. Tried a bunch of different things using recipes from FWSY and Tartine with delicious, but flat bread. Just did this and had 2 lovely well-risen loaves. Thanks!

Heather February 21, 2021 - 9:07 pm

Yay! I’m so excited for you! Thanks so much for this wonderful comment 🙂

Janet February 24, 2021 - 9:07 am

Hello Heather, I too am a Golden resident. I was given some sourdough starter this fall. I have to eat gluten-free, so I have been making sourdough hockey pucks for my family and they have been less than thrilled. I tried your method with the first loaf coming out of the oven this morning. It looks delightful, and has a nice rise to it. We shall see what the family says on the taste. Crossing my fingers. I am mystified on your recommendation of “proofing baskets”. I have been making homemade bread for at least 40 years. I have never heard of these, let alone seen them. What is the benefit over proofing in a bowl? Anyhow, thanks for working out a solution to high altitude bread making. Do you know of any recipes that have succeeded in making gluten-free sourdough, at altitude? I would love to be able to taste the fruits of my labor too.

Heather May 10, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Hi Janet, I don’t have a gluten-free high-altitude recipe, yet! It’s definitely on my radar. As far as proofing baskets go, they’re entirely optional! You absolutely can proof in bowls. The benefit of using bannetons is that they’re designed to help pull moisture away from the dough’s surface, creating a thin layer of “skin” that makes scoring much easier. But if you don’t have a proofing basket, no worries, continue proofing using a bowl like you always have!

Sarah March 5, 2021 - 7:22 am

5 stars
This review is not yet for the sourdough recipe (my starter is still maturing) but for the high-altitude baking tips that I was able to apply to another recipe. I’ve made a No Knead bread for years and since moving to high altitude, it has been consistently flat. Taking what I learned from this post, I reduced the hydration a bit, added a ten minute autolyse, reduced the bulk fermentation time at room temperature, and then cold-proofed it overnight. It has turned out PERFECTLY since making these changes. Thank-you!! Looking forward to trying the sourdough recipe as soon as my starter is ready!

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:41 am

Love that you’re customizing the recipe you’re comfortable with, Sarah! That’s what an intuitive sourdough baker would do 🙂

Thanks for the review!

Kaitlin March 9, 2021 - 3:08 pm

Can i save the other 2 loaves and bake later? Would you recommend freezing it before the cold rise?

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:40 am

I wouldn’t recommend this, because freezing may affect the leavening power of your starter. Instead, you can bake all three loaves, let them cool, slice the two extra loaves, and freeze those. That way you can pull as many slices from the freezer as you need, and thaw or toast them. Easy peasy!

Ken March 22, 2021 - 3:14 pm

5 stars
I have been struggling with getting any rise on my bread since moving to altitude (I am at 5200ft). This recipe works perfectly for me with some temperature reductions using a convection oven. I have rave reviews from those I have shared with so far.

Thank you for sharing this!

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:39 am

Thank you so much, Ken! I really appreciate you sharing the recipe as well. The high-altitude baking struggle is real!

Dima Bushna April 4, 2021 - 10:13 am

5 stars
Just made my first loaf at high altitude using your recipe. It turned out perfect . Thank you so much to ease my worries about baking sourdough at high altitude.

Kai April 10, 2021 - 6:25 pm

5 stars
I live in Boulder CO and had trouble with my sourdough for a while. This turned out great! Not super sour tasting though, not sure how to tweak that but the structure can’t be beat!

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:37 am

Thanks for the review, Kai! If you’re after a more sour sourdough, try leaving your dough in the refrigerator for an additional 12-24 hours. You can also “starve” your starter for 2-3 days, then as it produces hooch on top, stir that back in and feed as normal. The hooch is very sour and will give your starter a more pronounced sour flavor, which will resonate within the bread as well 🙂

Kathy April 18, 2021 - 6:22 am

I tried 4 other recipes without success and then I found yours. Perfection! At 8,500 feet here in beautiful Colorado baking can be as challenging as a 14’r. Thanks so much.

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:35 am

Love this review, Kathy. Thank you!

Sirous April 29, 2021 - 8:08 am

I love this recipe! One quick question, I want to increase the percentage of the whole wheat flour and I’m wondering if it effects the amount of water required? Thanks again for your all the help you’re providing!

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:34 am

Hi Sirous, your intuition is correct. You do need more water as you increase your amount of whole wheat flour, because whole wheat flour absorbs more water than white flours.
I wish I could tell you an exact number, but you’re going to have to use that same intuition and go by the feel of the dough to gauge how much more water you’ll need. I recommend replacing 50g of your white flour with wheat flour for each bake until you’re satisfied with the amount of wheat flour you’re using.
By increasing by 50g each time, you can better understand the effects it’s having on your dough, and respond accordingly. Also, take notes! This is imperative, as you’re basically writing your very own recipe 🙂
Good luck!

Allison Robinson May 25, 2021 - 12:17 pm

So I am very beginner at this and would love to try this recipe- especially since you live in the same area as I do. I’m in the Ken Caryl area. I’m starting with just one loaf- but how do we convert your measurements to cups/teaspoons etc..?? Haven’t figured out measurements in grams yet. Told you I was elementary level with this! 😂

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:20 am

Yes, you’re just down the road from me! Unfortunately there’s no direct conversion, because volumetric measurements (cups, tbsp, etc) vary widely. For example, if you measured a cup of your flour and I measured a cup of my flour, there may be as much as 100g difference! I highly recommend purchasing an inexpensive digital scale so you can use weight measurements instead.

Louis Demosthenous June 1, 2021 - 10:46 am

What is largest high elevation bread recipe I can use in the challenger bread pan?

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:16 am

I’m not sure Louis, but I heard that someone once baked a 2kg loaf in one!

Siegried June 4, 2021 - 10:58 pm

I live in Belgium, so as flat as a sealevel pancake. I’ve made sourdough for a long time. Sometimes it is right and airy, and sometimes it jist the no rised fluid dough.
So I discovered on very humid days, and we have some of that, it is just overfermented. Reading your article give me the insight experimenting with proofing times. I already did that, but more on feeling than keeping track of it. Thanks for the info

Heather June 15, 2021 - 11:15 am

Thank you for your comment, Siegried! Overfermentation affects so many different aspects of our breads, so I’m very happy you’ve learned how to recognize that. Best of luck going forward!

Jill July 5, 2021 - 4:08 pm

5 stars
Came to Boulder to help my daughter, Heather, move out there and she asked me to bake her some sourdough bread. I have never baked on high altitudes before, so I was a little worried. I found your recipe and I am so glad I did. It came out perfectly! I would love to share a picture of it but not sure where. Thank you for your guidance.

Heather July 7, 2021 - 1:12 pm

Hi Jill, thanks for the comment and I’m so glad your bread turned out! Unfortunately there’s no way to share photos in comments here, but I would love to see them over on the Leavenly Sourdough Community on Facebook!

Tom Moore July 6, 2021 - 12:03 pm

5 stars
Hmm, a take on Tartine. Made 6*900 g loaves. Six good to great loaves. Best holy holey bread I’ve made. Have always used more whole grains in my sourdough, usually 10% rye and a minimum of 15% whole wheat. Had good tasting bread but not holy holey bread. Working with the 90%/10% dough was a treat.

BUT does the shorter bulk ferment make a difference versus Tartine? I just baked up 3*900g loaves using this technique and 3*900g loaves using Tartine. Made up 5400g of dough and then split between the two techniques. Temperature was 78F (25C). Only real difference between the techniques is that high altitude loaves retarded for 15 hours while the Tartine retarded for 14 hours.

Visually, no difference between the two techniques. Both produced the holiest holy bread I’ve made in my roughly 10 years of sourdough baking. Believe I am getting the holes because of the 90% white flour (Organic Central Mills AP from Costco) versus the 75% maximum white flour I have used in the past.

So which technique will I use in the future (provided the loaves have the same texture and sour)? Will start using the high altitude technique as it only requires two hours of bulk fermenting and folds (plus shaping, etc.) versus four hours (plus shaping, etc.) for Tartine.

Interesting in that if the taste is the same, the bulk fermentation is all about setting up the gluten and doesn’t impact the microbiology as much as I would have expected.

Am looking forward to trying the higher whole grain breads using this technique.

Too bad I cannot post pictures of my results here.

Thank you for your research, etc.

Heather July 7, 2021 - 1:09 pm

Thanks for the comment and insights, Tom!

Jill July 13, 2021 - 11:39 am

5 stars
I recently made this High Altitude sourdough recipe when moving my daughter, Heather, to Boulder a few weeks ago. When I returned home to Florida I wanted to see if I could get the same amazing results with this recipe below sea level. And I was able to get amazing results at home too! This is my new go to recipe. Thank you.

Heather July 13, 2021 - 12:57 pm

That’s wonderful, Jill! I wonder if it’s due to your high heat and humidity in Florida. Both factors can speed up fermentation, much like elevation can. I appreciate you telling me this! Thank you!

PattiAnn July 15, 2021 - 7:06 pm

Hi Heather,
I just found your site due to a recomendation from Paula at Salad in a Jar. I make a lot of bread and it is a hobby now that I’m retired. Started in sd a few months ago with so so results & I will try your technique. My question is, I have always done bulk fermentation by volume rather than time. Example: put dough in strait sided vessel, make a mark, and when it has risen 30% it is ready to shape. Your technique is totally different with time bulk. Do you take volume into consideration at all? I am at 3800ft , central Oregon, with no humidity, especially this summer.
Thank you for your reply.

Heather November 6, 2021 - 3:46 pm

I believe bulking by volume is a more precise method, but without experience, many beginner home bakers would find this intimidating. As such, timed bulk is recommended and generally works well! Accommodations have to be made, of course, for us high-altitude folks… Hence this recipe. 🙂

Charlie August 23, 2021 - 12:13 pm

Thanks Heather!

My bread is turning out great now!

Angela September 13, 2021 - 5:46 pm

5 stars
Hi Heather Thank you for a great recipe. I have been baking your recipe for high altitude sour dough for over a year now with excellent results and have passed on the recipe to friends. One of my friends is asking if you know what the calorie value is either by slice or weight. I also use your basic recipe and add cinnamon and raisins for cinnamon raisin bread also with great results. I have also played around with substituting 50 grams of the white flour with 50 grams of rye along with the recipe amount for whole wheat and also substituting the whole wheat portion with rye. I always get a great loaf of bread but sometimes less oven spring than I would like. Should I make any hydration changes for using the rye flour? I use a crock pot insert with pizza stones underneath. I don’t have a dutch oven and wonder if I should invest in one. I sometimes add an ice cube to the crock pot after adding my dough to increase the steam inside and I also put a try of water on the rack beneath the stones. Would be interested in your feed back on these practices.

Heather November 6, 2021 - 3:51 pm

Hi Angela,

I don’t have caloric information, sorry!

If you’re substituting with rye, feel free to play with adding more water. Remember that even a 25g increase in water can make major changes! It does sound like your loaves could benefit from a little more hydration.

I’d love to hear an update!

Brenda September 25, 2021 - 10:19 am

I’m struggling with an increase in my elevation. Now at 4400 ft vs 2000 ft. I’ve made some adjustments but my crumb is still dense and spongy. I have been making a loaf that had a total of 455 g flour, so I was wondering about cutting your recipe in half and making one loaf that size vs 3 loaves using your recipe. If I do that, what would you suggest for baking time? Thank you!

Heather November 6, 2021 - 4:29 pm

Baking time would be the same regardless of the yield! 🙂

Catherine Johnson October 5, 2021 - 11:25 am

Heather, I have frozen some of my sourdough discard to use later. How do I thaw it out and how long do I wait to use it in a recipe.

Heather November 6, 2021 - 4:30 pm

I would let it thaw at room temp, then expect to feed it at least 3-5 times before it’s ready to bake with!

Dan October 8, 2021 - 8:19 am

Greetings from Kunming, China (1,900m). Thanks for your tips and plan to try it out soon to improve my oven spring and fix a problem I’m seeing of weak crumb structure near the top of the loaf. I’m thinking I could be over-fermenting.

Alina Hall October 27, 2021 - 6:15 pm

Hi Heather,

I made my sourdough starter and bread using your recipes. Bread came out beautifully! I’d like to use some medium rye flour, what adjustments would you recommend for high elevation? I’m in Flagstaff ~7,000 feet.
Thanks a mil!

Heather November 6, 2021 - 4:41 pm

The rye flour ferments much faster, so definitely keep a close eye on your dough! If you’re feeling like it’s getting billowy and ready to shape, trust your gut. 🙂

Kai November 1, 2021 - 9:54 pm

5 stars
I’ve made this a few times (okay, a lot) and it usually turns out great. But I’ve noticed that any time I fridge proof my bread, it winds up flat as a pancake. Every time. I wanna get it dialed in so I can actually make bread during the week but I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. Any suggestions? I live in Boulder so not far from Golden.

Heather November 6, 2021 - 4:24 pm

Interesting! I wonder if you cut some time from your bulk fermentation, if you’d have the same pancake result. Also, I try to never refrigerate beyond 18 hours if I can help it, as fermentation still happens in the fridge, just more slowly. I hope this helps!

Lynne December 25, 2021 - 11:00 am

Funny question from a noob baker in Lafayette CO – is there any benefit to using a kitchenaid mixer in this recipe? Husband just bought me one and got me super excited about baking, he’d be thrilled if it saw some use and I wanna try this bread recipe first 🙂

Heather January 2, 2022 - 8:21 pm

Hi Lynne!

Many people use stand mixers for their bread, especially if they have trouble using their hands (arthritis, etc). I would recommend using your hands when possible so you gain a feel for the dough. This will help you become a better sourdough baker and be better able to trust your instincts, since you’ll be using all your senses.

All that said… If you wanted to use it because it’s brand new, I don’t blame you! Here’s how to do it:

Add the leaven and water and mix on low for a few seconds, then add your flours and mix on low until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and the spatula, and leave it in the mixer bowl for the 30 minute autolyse. Then add your additional water and salt, and mix on low for a minute-ish. Your “folds” will look like this: Scrape, leave to rest, then mix on low for 30 seconds. At some point you’ll want to switch from the paddle to the dough hook, when the dough is cohesive and heavy, likely the first or second fold. Continue to do your “folds” in this manner, then bulk proof in the bowl, and follow the rest of the recipe verbatim.

I hope this helps!

Marcy January 12, 2022 - 4:50 pm

5 stars
Hi Heather,
This was so great. I live at 5100 ft elevation in New Mexico. I have struggled with a good process for years now. Always disapppointed. I knew I needed elevation adjustments, but none said it was ok to adjust the bulk ferment. . . which makes perfect sense. This loaf turned out fabulous.
I did notice that the glutens were pretty tight by the 3rd stretch and fold but then by the 6th and final, it seemed to relax a good bit. Should I have gone for a seventh?
I also found that my loaf was almost burnt. The ear tip was, and the loaf on top is way dark. So I will have to cut the last bake time of 15 minutes way down to like 7 minutes, or maybe cut the 30 minutes down some too?
Also, how do you recommend storing this cooled loaf?

Heather January 21, 2022 - 2:02 pm

Hi Marcy, I’m so glad this recipe worked for you! Some of my S&F’s are tighter than others as well. It’s important that we keep to six and no more, or we risk overfermenting our dough. For the dark top, you can add 5 minutes to the “lid on” time and remove 5 minutes from the “lid off” time. This should help. You can also place a tin foil strip over the ear to protect it from burning!

Ann Marie January 17, 2022 - 7:24 pm

I’ve tried three different sourdough recipients and this is the one!!! So so delicious! Thank you! 🙏🏼🙏🏼

Heather January 21, 2022 - 1:58 pm

Thanks for the wonderful feedback, Ann!


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