The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolysing Was the Missing Step!

Still Rising's picture
Still Rising

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?)

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Still Rising,


I'm happy to read you have discovered some of the real advantages to autolyse; the extra moisture absorption  in the flour is very significant, and there is noticeably quicker gluten development in the final mixing cycle.


A generally accepted practice is to include the starter in the autolyse if it is a liquid texture only.   A stiff starter would be added in the final mixing cycle.


It is a great technique for the homebaker.


Folding is up to you, but I think if your dough can't handle it, then you have probably mixed it too long in the first place.


Best wishes


Andy

lief's picture
lief

Just curious... why is it only generally accepted to include the starter in the autolyse if it is not stiff?

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

...also recommend reducing your kneading time with the KA mixer


re

Still Rising on August 22, 2010 wrote:
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?)

Machine kneading and "stretch and fold" are not mutually exclusive. They can be combined effectively.


FOLDING DOES TWO THINGS


> most importantly, it aligns the gluten strands - it encourages the gluten strands go  horizontally and vertically instead of all mixed up. Visually, the closest I can get to the idea of aligning the gluten strands is to use hash mark -  # . Alignment of gluten strands produces a more resilient dough and promotes good oven spring during baking.


> it redistributes the yeast in the dough, allowing the yeast to be moved to new areas to "feed", thus promoting the rise


SUGGESTED MODIFICATION


> reduce machine mixng time to 3 - 6 minutes and then begin the bulk ferment (3 - 4 minutes recommended if your dough uses mostly commercial white flour; 5 - 6 minutes if your dough uses a high percentage of whole wheat flour).


> do one "stretch and fold" after about 45 - 60 minutes. You should be able to stretch the dough during folding. Continue the bulk ferment.


> check your dough about 45 minutes after the first "stretch and fold". If it is easily stretched out (the fancy word is extensible) then give it a second stretch and fold. If it tends to resist stretching, a second " stretch and fold" is not necessary


WELCOME TO THE JOYS OF AUTOLYSE


This simple step is one of the most productive techniques you can apply to a straight dough. It allows the flour to absorb water and begins the gluten formation process in the dough.


The longer you do an autolyse, the less machine kneading is required.


==============


Best wishes for your baking. You're clearly already taking the right steps in your technique.

wally's picture
wally

The one bit of information that would have been really useful is how the dough felt after your ten minute mix.  You certainly would have had gluten development; the question is, how much?  If you could pull a full windowpane then you probably overmixed the dough, and additional stretch and folds are of no use - you're already in a hole.  I've got a pretty weak stand mixer (Hamilton Beach), but I probably wouldn't go ten minutes after a sixty minute autolyse.  You need to tug on the dough at mixing intervals, and most importantly, try pulling a windowpane.  If you've mixed the dough sufficiently (moderate gluten development) then you should be able to create a partial windowpane that tears. In that case, an additional s&f after an hour might help.


The above part about "dense, crumbly, and unpleasant after a day or two of being bagged in the cupboard" has nothing to do with autolyse, however.


Larry


 


 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi lief,


If you don't include a liquid starter, then your autolyse will have insufficient liquid to be of full benefit.   Plainly this does not apply with a stiff levain.


Thanks


Andy

lief's picture
lief

Thank you for your reply, Andy.  Please forgive my ignorant musings, but isn't the hydration level of the final dough what matters when considering the benefits of an autolyse, not whether the starter itself is stiff or not?

grind's picture
grind

If you could pull a full windowpane then you probably overmixed the dough, and additional stretch and folds are of no use - you're already in a hole.


 


Ideally, I like the full windowpane after scaling and during the preshape.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Lief,


That's why you incorporate the liquid levain.   If you didn't, then the autolyse would be less use, as the hydration level would be lacking.   That was the point I was making.    Intrinsicly, it is correct hydration, not form of starter that I was looking at


Thanks


Andy