Autolysing, more or less, mixing by hand
I am a weekend baker for the past 3.5 years and I stick to a pretty narrow repertoire of SD miche's, batards, baguettes and pizza dough (and a variation of pizza from Lebanon called manouche so that my wonderful wife doesn't repatriate). I have a Compact but it really isn't big enough so half the time I do it by hand. I would grade myself an intermediate amateur home bread baker.
Now to the crux of the post, autolysing. Many (most?) recipes I follow include an initial autolysing, sometimes just the flour and water and other times just without the salt. The typical period is 30 mins although, in particular, some pizza dough and baguette recipes I read suggest going much longer. Jeff Varasano in his excellent pizza blog extols the virtues of autolysing and basically says that just 20 minutes can be the difference between a good and crumby dough.
I am wondering whether it might not be beneficial to extend the autolysing period. I don't bake enough and with two small kids, a crowded kitchen and a busy schedule, scientific experimentation with micro variations and all the right timing isn't happening in my houshold anytime soon. But I have been extending the autolysing period for the flour and h20 alone, especially when doing larger batches by hand and my sense of it is that I am getting a cleaner and better developing dough.
Let's say I am doing a 4kg batch. The current technique I employ is to put all the h20 into my mixing container followed by all the flours, which I will mix quickly and thoroughly by hand. Drop the lid on it and let it rest -- if the house is warm and I want to let it go 12 hour or more, it goes into the fridge; if it is cool, like now it's 65f, I will probably leave it out. I have let the flour-h2o autolyze for as much as 36 hours but whether it is 6 or 36, the mix is easy to work with and to add in the starter and salt when I get started. And while I cannot be certain it is attributable to the autolysing, the final bread product seems to have a more consistent and richer crumb.
Can anyone tell me if there are known pros and cons to extending the autolysing period or what their experiences have been? How long is too long?