The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Long Autolyse vs Long Cold fermentation - Best Flavor

tordoc's picture

Long Autolyse vs Long Cold fermentation - Best Flavor

I'm interested to see what the group thinks...


Which is better for flavor development?

For example if we made 3 batches of baguettes with the same formula but:


The first batch we combine flour and most of the water, do a cold AUTOLYSE for 24 hours, then mix in the yeast, salt, and remaining water, then bulk ferment at room temperature, divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (Gosselin)



The second batch we combine flour all,of the water, the yeast, salt, then bulk ferment at room temperature, the COLD FERMENT in the fridge for 24 hours, then divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (common - Van Over, AB5, etc.)


The third batch we combine flour all,of the water ICE COLD, the yeast, salt, then  COLD FERMENT in the fridge for 24 hours, then divide, preshape, rest, shape, proof, and bake (Pain a l'Ancienne - Reinhart)

How would these loaves differ?  

Does the third method allow ongoing autolysis  since the yeast is still somewhat dormant?

DonD's method stacks techniques 1 and 2 over 3 days.  The best of both worlds.  But which is the more important step for flavor development?

The dough smells so nice after 24 hours autolysing with just water.  How long can flour stay mixed with water before adding the rest of the ingredients?  Is there a point for autolysis beyond which additional flavor development is minimal?




bnom's picture

DonD's formula calls 12 hour autolyze, not 24.  That said, I forgot my autolyzing bread and it was a good 24 hours in the fridge. Flavor was very good. Not better than the 12 hour - but not noticeably diminished either.

Your question is an interesting one. My guess is that method one would result in a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor than method two.  I base that on my experience this weekend baking a columbia-type SD bread that was retarded overnight, and a pain au levain that was not retarded (both breads had a half hour autolyze).


oceanicthai's picture

I am trying to find the method that will help me acheive a bread with crisp, blistered, carmelized crust, open & airy but chewy crumb in a 70% whole wheat sourdough boule bread.  So I am looking forward to hearing the results!

pattycakes's picture

I don't know about in a 70% ww dough, but normally you get the blistered crust from cold retarding your loaves after shaping.


tordoc's picture

Well, I am trying different techniques to improve flavor and increase my own efficiency so I can keep some fresh bread in the house.  I have not really taken a very organized approach to the above question yet, but i have found that both longer fermentations and autolysis do affect flavor significantly.

I found a blog where a very organized approach was taken.  With the same white dough recipe this baker tied several different methods for developing flavor:

Long rise (3-4 hour bulk fermentation)


Overnight ferment (cold)

Overnight proof (cold)


Straight Dough


The first 2 techniques listed above were clear winners and a sourdough version did very well.

Please check out this blog and comment on your experiences.

I am trying a technique that he has not - 24 hour room temperature bulk ferment.  We'll see how it goes tonight...

oceanicthai's picture

I am still reading this thread to see how it all goes. Right now I am cold autolysing my flour & water, no levain, for 12 to 15 hours (varies depending on when I am free.)
I leave my hot soaker and my refreshed 100% hydrated sourdough starter out at room temperature for about 8 hours then into the fridge if I'm not ready to use it.
Day 2 in the morning or early afternoon I make my final dough, mix, rest, 3 S&Fs, preshape and into the fridge.
At 8 p.m. or so I take it out, shape & put into my improvised floured couche in my improvised banneton (a steel bowl.)
At 8 a.m. I take it out, let proof a bit while the oven is heating up, flip it on the peel, slash & bake in a covered clay pot. (My improvised La Cloche.)
I will post a pic later. So far I've baked 3 loaves and they are all divine.

oceanicthai's picture

AZBlueVeg's picture

I have had great success using a 12-hour room temperature autolyze followed by an 8-12 hour room temperature fermentation, then shape and proof for 2 hours or until dough has doubled. This gives me a very deep, well rounded sourdough flavor that rivals the best I've ever tasted - and I'm from San Francisco! You don't need San Francisco starter (I'm in AZ now) and whatever starter you do use, using less of it makes for a more flavorful, more sour loaf than using more.

When you ferment your dough for such a long period of time without regrigeration, the condition and health of your starter are very important as is making sure you don't over-ferment or over-proof. The longer you let your dough sit after adding starter, the more bactaria and acids build up. This is beneficial to a point, but if you go too far you will end up with an extremely sour, flat and light colored pancake. If you get that, you know you've let the dough go too far. A good way to tell is when you are shaping the loaf - is the gluten tearing in your hands, is it getting progressively more and more wet and slack as you shape it? If yes, then you've over-fermented.

Mix filtered water and flour only into a shaggy ball, place in a loosely covered container and let sit at room temp for 12 hours. If you have whole wheat flour in your mix, the top layer of your dough may take on a darker color after the 12 hour ferment, which is fine. Your total volume of starter will be 2%-10% of your flour by weight, adjust quantities depending upon what works for you. Once you determine the amount of starter needed, reduce by the same weight of water when you mix your initial batch of dough for the long autolyze. For instance, if you are using 500g of flour, 350g of water (70% hydration) and 25g of starter (5% by flour weight), then your initial dough batch should contain 500g flour and 325g water.

After the dough has autolyzed for 12 hours at room temp, sprinkle the dough with salt equal to 2% of flour weight. In the above example we would use 10g of salt. In a separate container, wisk your 25g of starter together with 25g (equal weight) of filtered water. Pour this liquid over the autolyzed, salted dough and mix with dough wisk or by hand until well combined. Let this sit until doubled in size, which will depend upon your ambient room temperature. Higher temps give a faster rise, so if you are over proofing or rising too fast, reduce the amount of starter.

Once you've tried this a few times and know how far you can take your dough, play with the variables to get the right combination of flavor and a process that fits in with your schedule. If I know that I want bread on a Monday morning, then I start making it 24 hours prior. It's really not that difficult and the resulting bread is out of this world!

ghazi's picture

Can I just ask, I really like your method of less starter. What hydration is your starter ?


stephaniedan's picture

Im wondering if anyone can weigh in to answer the question posted by tordoc as I am really interested to hear what people think?