Autolysing Was the Missing Step!
Long time reader, first time poster.
After having difficulties with my starter after a move, I was ready to toss my starter in the trash and start over. All my bread was coming out dense, crumbly, and unpleasant after a day or two of being bagged in the cupboard. Come day 3, I could hardly squeeze the loaf and could usually tear a boule in half akin to a phone book. I tried changing everything in the process to remedy the density, from kneading by hand to machine, using different rising times, retarding the dough, etc. al. I was at my wit's end.
The other day I tried autolysing for the first time (I use the term loosely because I mixed in my starter- but no salt.) I let it autolyse for 30 minutes and I immediately saw the advantage because my dough was supple, elastic and fun to work with- nothing like what my doughs over the past year had felt like!
I just mixed up another batch and let it autolyse for an hour this time (once again with the starter in it but no salt.) After the autolysing I added the salt and kneaded on speed 2 with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer ten minutes (mainly to try to take my hand kneading out of the equation to see how much an effect this is having on loaves.)
Will folding the dough be beneficial during the bulk fermentation or is this too much handling at this point (it seems that people either knead or fold- not both?)