Why Does Autolysis Work?
Yesterday, for the first time, I gave a batch of SD a two-hour autolysis. I combined the flour, water and starter -- everything but the salt. After standing for two hours at room temperature, I mixed in the salt and let it proof for six more hours at around 88F. The result was the best rise I've ever had! Lately my loaves had been rising but not very much; they were a little flat, and this was the cure.
Why does letting the unsalted dough sit for two hours at room temperature affect the rise so dramatically? What is the chemistry/biochemistry going on under the hood?