As the barometric pressure falls, the likelihood of ending up with a coarse loaf of bread rises. Barometric pressure, also commonly known as atmospheric pressure, essentially measures the weight of the air. The most common factors that cause low pressure include storms and high altitudes. With a few adjustments, you can easily bake a delicious loaf during periods of low barometric pressure.
Adjusting the Ingredients
Although you don't automatically need to revamp your entire recipe just because a storm's approaching, you may need to make a few adjustments, particularly if you're baking at high altitudes. For example, sifting the flour, which aerates it, before you measure it helps lighten up the flour and add a bit of moisture on a humid day. If you’re baking at high altitudes, you may need to add more liquid to your bread dough, especially if you're baking with whole wheat flour or another type of dark flour, which dry out faster than white flower. Adding 1 to 4 tablespoons for every 1 cup of liquid that the recipe calls for can combat that dryness. Additionally, during low barometric pressure, you may need to decrease the amount of flour by as much as one-quarter of the amount used in your recipe to make the dough easier to handle.
Letting the Dough Rise
Normally, you’d want to keep your bowl of dough in a warm spot with temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit to let the dough rise. Because low barometric pressure causes dough to rise faster, keeping the dough in an area that's slightly cooler can help slow the dough's rise. Otherwise, you need to keep your eye on the rise of the dough rather than the clock. Over-risen bread can give take on a yeasty smell, sour flavor and a crumbly or coarse texture. Additionally, since time is crucial in developing the flavor of your bread, letting it rise twice is crucial to maximizing flavor. Once you can press your finger into the top of the dough without the dough springing back, punch the dough a few times and let it rise again. This should take roughly half the time it took for the first rising.
Setting Your Oven Temperature
Even if you don't want to alter the ingredients in your bread recipe, you might want to increase your oven temperature by 10 to 15 F. The higher oven temperature helps the proteins in the bread come together, forming the crust during the early part of baking while keeping gases in the dough from over expanding during the later stages of baking.
Depending on how low the barometric pressure is, you may not need to make any adjustments to your bread recipe, other than keeping a close eye on the rise of the bread dough. If you’re simply baking during a short period of low barometric pressure, experiment with your recipe as is and amend it if necessary. If you're baking at very high altitudes -- 6,000 feet above sea level or higher -- the barometric pressure is substantially lower and requires adjustments to your baking routine.
- WeatherShack.com: Barometric Pressure
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- Colorado State University La Plata County Cooperative Extension: Altitude Adjustment
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