The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to regulate dough temperature after an autolyse?

  • Pin It
Simon280586's picture

How to regulate dough temperature after an autolyse?

Hi there,

I've browsed this excellent site for quite a while but only just got around to making an account. Anyway, I have a couple of quick questions which I haven't been able to find an answer to yet.

In Hamelman's 'Bread' (I've got the second edition), he tells you how to calculate the desired dough temperature after mixing by varying water temperature. Now I understand this is of greater importance in a commercial setting where timing is crucial, but I've had very good results doing it myself because it allows me to follow his timing instructions more accurately. It's useful information to have, at any rate. However:

I am unsure if there is any way to account for an autolyse phase, where the temperature will drop over time and the water has already been added. I'd imagine that with larger batches, this is less of a problem, but when I'm doing single loaves at a time, I lose much of the temperature, especially in cooler weather. Should I simply add a degrees to the water temp until it's roughly where I want it to be after the rest period?

Secondly, and I may have missed this in the book (all I could see were either straight doughs - x3 - or doughs with a  preferment - x4), but how do you alter the multiplication factor for enriched doughs, where milk, butter, honey etc. might be added but in relatively small amounts. Do you just ignore them?

I'm more curious than anything, because being accurate is not the be all and end all, and I know how to compensate to some extent by extending the fermentation time if necessary. Still, any thoughts welcome :)

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I never measure the water temperature. I use filtered water that sits in a pitcher on the kitchen counter. Its temperature varies by season. In summer, I freeze all but the white flours and add those immediately to preferments or one-phase doughs. I adjust rising times. I watch the dough or preferment carefully (if I am home and not sleeping) and I generally prefer a longer rising time so I can do two essential tasks - sleep and go to work. I fear employing the thermometer for these interim phases because then it would become, for me, all about the temperature and less about the texture, rising and smell of the dough as it matures. Of course, everyone concentrates on what works for them and we each, with this bread obsession, obsess about different aspects of the process. Did I say obsession? Addiction would also fit.

barryvabeach's picture

Simon, I love his book, but don't track temperatures as he does.  if you keep accurate notes of your room temp, dough temp before and after autolyse, and dough mass a few times, you should be able to make a pretty good estimate of the effect of the autolyse .  I think he suggests you do the same to determine friction factor - do some tests to see how much the temp rises after mixing at certain speeds, and write it down and figure out a general guide.  While I don't try to estimate final dough temps as he suggests, if something is way off ( I home ground my flour and keep it in the freezer, so my doughs may be colder than most )  I will either pop it in the microwave with a cup of boiling water for a few minutes, or if mixing has heated the dough too much, I will put it in the fridge a short time.

FlourChild's picture

From what I saw during classes at KAF, Hammelman's ambient temps (proofing cabinets) are a little warmer than his desired dough temps.  At home, you can go at it one of two ways.  

One way is to have all ingredients at room temp (including water) and to extend the fermentation times to account for your lower dough and ambient temps.  This makes particular sense if you enjoy hand kneading, because if you hand knead a small amount of dough on the counter, it will quickly adjust to the temp of your counter.  As a jumping off point, fermentation time doubles when the temp drops by 15-17F.  Watching volume carefully can help gauge progress.

The other way is to manage the proofing environment and dough temp so that fermentation times more closely resemble his guidelines.  This means warming the water AND creating a warm, moist enviroment (The KAF proofers were set at 81F when I was there) for everything from the autolyse through bulk ferment.

I don't recommend using water temp alone to manage dough temp, without also creating a warm proofing environment, because with a small amount of dough it is a losing battle.  And you could end up using water that is so warm it adversely affects yeast activity and/or enzyme activity, this is particularly true for sourdough.

Simon280586's picture

Thanks for the reply. Great that you have direct knowledge of the conditions at KAF.

I tend to do one or the other of the methods you describe, depending on the weather. I suppose I'm leaning more towards the former, since creating a consistently and appropriately warm environment at home can be somewhat of a hassle when you can just leave the dough to sit longer instead. Time being your friend and all that.

You mention watching volume carefully. Most of the doughs I make involve folding during fermentation, so how much of a rise are you looking for after the final fold? Often it's hard to judge by sight, because the dough tends to loosen and spread out from its tight shape, so I usually look at the underside of the bowl to see how large the air pockets are getting. I should probably get a straight-sided container.

FlourChild's picture

How far to let the dough rise during bulk fermentation is mostly a matter of flavor.  First time through I try to follow the recipe exactly, or if no volume goal is specified then double is a good place to start for many wheat breads.  In order to be able to gauge volume, I try to space the folds so that they're finished before the last 60-90 minutes of bulk fermentation, and I also handle the dough very gently during the last fold or two, if I can feel that it is beginning to fill with air.  The last third of the bulk ferment is when most of the visible rising takes place.  

Straight-sided containers are great.  Some people like using bowls because it is nice to be able to keep the dough in the bowl during folds.  If you are using a bowl, you can pour water into it and mark the appropriate volume.  I often use pyrex measuring cups in larger sizes, unless I'm making something with very high hydration that requires a boatload of folds, then I use a wide bowl so I'm not constantly scraping the dough out of the container for every fold.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and warm it up first, that helps it maintain the temperature during autolysing.  Also helps to park the bowl in a towel or larger bowl, both work like insulation preventing the bowl and contents from cooling off too much.