High altitude starter question


 New to the forum. I recently came across a book in a used book store titled "Alaske Sourdough" by Ruth Allman. Interesting book with a bunch of no nonsense recipes. 

Starter Recipe

2 cups thick potato water

2 cups flour

2 tbls sugar


Let sit three days. Add a couple of tbls flour and one of sugar. Let sit for at least 4 more days.


My question is: Does altitude affect the process? I live at 7000' and at day six there are only a few very small bubbles on the top of the starter. After making up the starter it doubled the first day and then subsided. Did the day 3 feed and forgot to watch for the rise. Comments? 



380 users have voted.


LeadDog's picture
LeadDog 2010 December 27

 I have that book.  I don't think the altitude will affect the process of building a starter.  Sometimes a starter takes a while to get to the place where you can bake with it.  I would think most of us here would not make a starter as written up in that book.  If you want to change up what you are currently doing let me know.

agassiz51 2010 December 27

Don't know that I want to change what I am doing with this one as I was just trying it to see what happened. I have a starter that I have had for at least fifteen years and probably have been using incorrectly. Looking around this site has clued me into how ignorant I am when it comes to baking. Just been using a bread machine on dough cycle for many years to make daily bread as I hated the taste, texture (mostly the lack of taste and texture) and cost of grocery store bread. Extra time on my hands and a series of coincidences led me to this site. I came across this book, read an article in Mother Earth news on baking, my wife coming across a brand new grain mill at a thrift store and here I am realizing how little I know.  

steven.wales 2010 December 27



Maybe this is different / controversial, but for myself, I read / ask for information, and then adapt it to the situation I am in.


Other peoples knowledge, while good, may not always work for you and where you are, but if adapted, may be perfect. I live about one metre above sea level in the UK, so what my starters do may be fascinating, they may not be relevant to your situation, at different elevations, and climates.



bakinginquito 2011 May 18

at 9200 feet of altitude, however my sourdough is already 3 years and a half old...high altitude, in my opinion may affect in the sense that room temp may vary between day and night...that's all :-) Happy Baking Paolo

Sonja Van der Merwe 2017 November 12

Hi there, I also live in Quito & I have tried 3 times already to make my starter. I am currently on day 6 & it just has bubbles but it is not rising. Any suggestions please? What recipe to you follow?

Staff 2017 November 12

Baking at High Altitude

Anne Gardiner & Sue Wilson, authors of the book, The Inquisitive Cook have these tips for high altitude baking:

The weight of air is a phenomenon most cooks seldom contemplate. But if you live in Denver, Calgary, Johannesburg, or a host of other high-altitude locales, you'll face fallen cakes and overflowing batters if you don't. As elevation rises, air pressure falls, which means that bakers living at 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) will see different results than lowland bakers. Since most recipes are designed for sea level, high-altitude success requires a few clever adjustments.

Low air pressure has two main effects on baked goods: They will rise more easily, and lose moisture faster; liquids evaporate more quickly since water boils at lower temperatures at high altitude.

As leavening occurs faster, gas bubbles tend to coalesce into large, irregular pockets in a batter or dough. The result? A coarse-textured cake. Alternatively, the pressure inside a rising batter can become so great, that cell walls stretch beyond their maximum and burst. Collapsing cell walls means the cake falls too.

Quicker evaporation also has several ramifications. It makes baked goods more prone to sticking. And sugar becomes more concentrated. Some cakes won't set. Or by the time they do set, they've become dry and crumbly.

Here are some guidelines for converting favorite recipes. To reinforce cell walls, adjust sugar and fat (the tenderizers), eggs and sometimes flour (the strengtheners). And reducing leavening agents relieves the pressure within the cells. Try one or two adjustments at a time and note the results. Where a range is given, use the smaller adjustment first. As altitude goes up, more adjustment may be necessary.


1. With the exception of angel and sponge cakes, line baking pans for cakes with parchment, or grease well and dust with flour. Use cupcake papers for muffins so they don't stick.

2. Subtract 1 - 3 tablespoons (15 - 45 ml) sugar per cup (250 ml). A mottled surface on a cake indicates too much sugar. Then if needed, subtract 1 - 2 tablespoons (15 - 25 ml) fat per cup (250 ml) of fat.

3. Add an additional egg or egg white. This adds more liquid (see #5), as well as protein, which coagulates and makes the cake set faster. Some cooks also add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) more flour per cup (250 ml) flour.

4. Decrease baking powder or baking soda by 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon (.5 ml to 2 ml) for every teaspoon (5 ml) called for in cake recipes. You may find that quick breads (biscuits, muffins, coffee cakes), squares, and cookies, which have a stronger cell structure, don't need adjusting.

5. To allow for moisture loss, add 1 - 2 tablespoons (15 - 25 ml) extra liquid per cup of liquid. For elevations above 4,921 feet (1,500 meters), add up to 4 tablespoons (60 ml) liquid as needed.

6. Decrease the rising time for yeast breads and make sure the dough rises only until double in bulk. Allow the dough to rise twice before shaping. Try using 20 percent less yeast.

7. Beat egg whites for foam cakes (angel, sponge, chiffon) just until soft peaks form, so they're still elastic enough to expand as the batter rises.

8. Increase baking temperatures by 25 degrees F (15 C) to allow baking to set before cells overstretch.

9. Check for doneness early and reduce baking time if necessary.

Bon apetit!
Anne and Sue


SOURCE: https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/icooks/article-3-03.html

Teri Tallent 2018 February 12

I live at a high elevation 6700 ft. and have had no difficulties with starter. My starter began with 3 cups organic whole milk in glass bowl covered for 24 hours. Then stirred in 2 cups unbleached flour (King Arthur) and a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of yeast. I let it stand for about 3 days in warm spot in kitchen, keeping in mind my kitchen is not warm at night. The mix then got a little bubbly and smelled sour. I then put it in the fridge loosely covered. I feed it a 1/3 cup of flour and about the same of water every week.

But my bread always seems to fall about a half inch in oven and full inch in bread machine. I had thought of adding less yeast, but had not heard of anyone actually doing it. So, will try it on my next loaf of bread. It does need an extra tablespoon or so of flour. The extra water is absolutely needed. It is so very dry at this altitude. How much water is determined by what each type of recipe needs just to be able to get all ingrediants wet and mix them well. Sometimes it is just a tablespoon or two. Sometimes it is almost a quarter cup. 

The high temp surprised me as well. I learned that to make canned biscuits, I lower the oven temp from 350 down to 285. this gives the biscuits a chance to rise before browning which freezes the size. The bottoms would burn before the top would get done at the higher temp.

I had thought that if I lower my bread temp, perhaps I could get a little rise in the oven before it browns? I did learn that the bread must rise completely before baking as there will not be any oven rise. At all, ever!

It would be nice to find a good baking cookbook for high elevation. Any ideas?

Sloan 2020 May 23

"Pie in the Sky" by Susan Purdy is an excellent high-altitude baking resource; there are usually five different altitude adjustments for each recipe. I am just getting into it, and I am an amateur high-alt baker.

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