The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is the correct grammatical usage of the word "autolyse"?

MarkS's picture

What is the correct grammatical usage of the word "autolyse"?

I simply have no context for this word. It only came into my vocabulary a couple of months ago when I found this site. As such, the usage has me stumped.

For instance, this sentence makes sense: The recipe uses the autolyse method.

However, take out the word "method" and the sentence falls apart.

Neither "an autolyse" or simply "autolyse" sound correct.

Using it as a verb is even trickier: ... let the dough autolyse for 20 minutes.

What is the correct usage?


ClimbHi's picture

According to the dictionary, it's a verb : to cause to undergo, or to undergo, autolysis. So, "autolyse the dough for one hour", or "let the dough autolyze for one hour." In your example, "this recipe uses autolysis."

FWIW, "autolysis", per Wiki:

"In the food industry, autolysis involves killing the yeast and encouraging the breakdown of the cells by enzymes. It is used to give different flavors. For yeast extract, this process is triggered by the addition of salt.

In bread baking, the term (or, more commonly, its French cognate autolyse) is used to describe a hydration rest between the mixing and kneading of the dough that allows the gluten in the dough to rest and simplifies the shaping process of the finished dough. The term was coined by French baking professor Raymond Calvel.

In the making of fermented beverages, autolysis can occur when the must or wort is left on the lees for a long time. In beer brewing, autolysis causes undesired off-flavors. Autolysis in winemaking is often undesirable, but in the case of the best Champagnes it is a vital component in creating flavor and mouth feel."

I guess that's why PR calls bread "solid beer"!

Pittsburgh, PA

PS: Interesting -- use can mean killing off yeast to develop flavors, or just resting/hydration. Note that, per Wiki, the term is a "French cognate", whatever that is. ???

ejm's picture

I had to look up "cognate" too (sheesh, whatever happened to "root"?) I guessed that it meant "knowing".... From the Little Oxford Dictionary on my desk:

a. descended from same ancestor or root or origin. n. cognate word or person.

And here it is confirmed on The Free Dictionary in The American Heritage Dictionary entry:

2. Related in origin, as certain words in genetically related languages descended from the same ancestral root;

I still don't really see that "cognate" can be used as a noun, but then it's a moot point. I'm not likely to use "cognate" in many sentences from now on.

I raved about autolyse a while back in a post about kneading slack dough by hand:

According to Merriam Webster, autolyse (also autolyze) is "to undergo autolysis". And autolysis?

autolysis [...] breakdown of all or part of a cell or tissue by self-produced enzymes -- called also self-digestion

On, there is an entry from Food and Nutrition (Oxford University Press):

autolysis The process of self-digestion by the enzymes naturally present in tissues. For example, the tenderizing of game while hanging is due to autolysis of connective tissue. Yeast extract is produced by autolysis of yeast.

And here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Autolyse is a period of rest allowed for dough to relax. After the initial mixing of flour and water, the dough is allowed to sit. This rest period allows for better absorption of water and allows the gluten and starches to align. Breads made with autolysed dough are easier to form into shapes and have more volume and improved structure.

And finally, in Artisan Baking Across America, Maggie Glezer wrote:

The term autolyse [...] was adopted by Professor Raymond Calvel, the esteemed French bread-baking teacher and inventor of this somewhat odd but very effective technique. During the rest time, the flour fully hydrates and its gluten further develops, encouraged by the absence of: compressed yeast, which would begin to ferment and acidify the dough (although instant yeast is included in autolyses lasting no longer than 30 minutes because of its slow activation): salt, which would cause the gluten to tighten, hindering its development and hydration; and pre-ferments, which would also acidify the dough. The flour's improved hydration and gluten development shorten the mixing time, increase extensibilty (the dough rips less during shaping), and ultimately result in bread with a creamier colored crumb and more aroma and sweet wheat flavor.


MarkS's picture

Thank you both for the replies!