The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using an autolyse with long cool proof 100% sourdough

hutchndi's picture

Using an autolyse with long cool proof 100% sourdough

I bake mostly basic but always 100% sourdough breads, using most of the popular techniques that are helpful in getting the best performance from the method, but I have lately been finding that I can do without the autolyse step, actually I think the condition of my dough is a bit more to my liking at the end of the proofing process by bypassing the step, and I was wondering if any other sourdough enthusiests have found this to be the case also. I recall someone passing along to me a few years ago that it wasn't really neccessary in the long slow proofing of sourdoughs, but I was pretty busy doing everything Hamelman at the time and went on using it for quite a while. My last 4-5 bakes I have ommited the step completely, and I see no reason whatsoever to bring it back. Any opinions?


dmsnyder's picture

The purpose of the autolyse is to let the flour absorb the water to give you a more accurate picture of the dough consistency, so you know whether its hydration is correct, and to give the gluten a chance to develop. The latter factor allows for a shorter mix, and thus less oxidation of the dough. I think it results in a more open crumb at any given hydration level.

This may be more of an issue in the commercial setting where more powerful mixers are used, but I like what it does and use it for most doughs, even if the recipe doesn't call for it.

I'd be interested in hearing what you like better about your dough when you skip the autolyse.


hutchndi's picture

 I thought it was really a big help in taking my breads to another level also when I first started using it, but around the same time I started baking at high temps and using steam and tiles also so I did not get a good indication of how much affect it actually had.

I bake pretty much the same recipe time and time again, which is basicly Vermont Sourdough usually with the 10% whole wheat. So I have allot of practice with this dough. I use no mixer at all, just a scoop in a bowl, and I have been mixing the same way for years. Because I used to use the autolyse before salt or the addition of culture, I am figuring it to be not involved in the total proofing, so I don't know exactly why I have been coming to this conclusion. Whenever I use the autolyse, my dough seems to end up a little longer into proof  (dough condition, not rise) in comparison to a dough that was created from fresh (non-autolyse) flour added to my levaine build.

It is almost like the gluten begins buillding strength sooner and eventually begins to deteriorate a bit sooner on the other end.  As for the crumb itself, I really notice no difference at all.

cognitivefun's picture

I never bothered with autolyse for maybe 100 loaves of 100% sourdough King Arthur Bread Flour and they came out every time.

I am now working 100% home milled red winter wheat sourdough and it's a different ballgame. Not sure autolyse is best here either, but there are a lot of complexities to it that weren't there before.

The thing I'm working on is getting a loaf that is fluffy, relatively speaking, and not too dense. I have a sourdough that is retarding in the fridge now, day 1.5, without autolyse. I may try autolyse and see if it matters.



wally's picture


If you're mixing by hand there is no real benefit to my knowledge of utilizing autolyse.  Professor Raymond Calvel introduced it to French bakers as a way of reducing their production time (a benefit to them), while improving the flavor and nutritional value of bread (a benefit to the consumer) that was being lost due to intensive mixing methods widely adopted by bakeries after the Second World War.

You're mixing bread the way it was mixed for millenia until the introduction of industrial mixers in the last century.  I don't think autolyse nets you any benefits you're not already deriving.


hutchndi's picture

Thank you very much for pointing that out Larry. I have a 6 quart kitchenaid stand mixer that I never use (for bread that is), but if I ever do I will re-incorporate the autolyse, now that I know in what circumstance it is actually benificial.


Zenith's picture

Cognitivefun, could you explain more about the complexities of using home milled red wheat flour?  I am a beginning baker who mills all of the flour I use, mostly locally grown hard red winter wheat, and I'm not really sure what I should be doing differently when I follow bread recipes.  I have made a lot of dense bricks!  Are there different techniques in mixing, proving, shaping, or should I be adding other ingredients to this fresh flour like malt or ascorbic acid?  Any suggestions would be welcome.

cognitivefun's picture

I think a pre-ferment is essential. A pooish or a biga.This really makes a big difference in terms of rising.

I think the autolyse is a good idea too. But I often don't do it. I haven't determined how much difference it makes. I am starting to keep detailed records which I never did before.

I think the whole wheat fibers cut the glutin and the protein strands smaller and that accounts for the denser bread.

I don't add anything to the bread as you describe nor do I plan to.

I am playing with kneading. I have made bread in food processors for a long time. Then I have done no knead, just pull/fold methods, which work very well too. I am trying to see if there is a difference.

More questions than answers, really.

clazar123's picture

Zenith and cognitivefun, there is LOTS of info on working with whole wheat over in the "Whole Grains" forum. Post some inquiries or search there.

Whole wheat is totally different in handling and there are some good posts,lately, about how to come out with great, soft WW loaves.

Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

Maybe you should try Peter Reinhart's "epoxy method" from WHOLE GRAIN BREADS.

Basically, you build a starter with 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour, and a plain soaker with the rest. The advantage over a long proof is that the enzymes in the soaker can break down the starches into sugars, without them just being immediately used up by the yeast to produce excess CO2, and there is no lactic acid to break down the enzymes. The next day you combine the two parts (like epoxy) along with anything else that goes in the bread. I've been doing variations of this method for a few months, and think it does dramatically improve the flavor over just a long proof. If you taste the soaker at the beginning and the end, you will be surprised how much sweeter it is, and those various sugars all bring out the flavor of the wheat.