The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Effect of yeast on autolyse

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Effect of yeast on autolyse

So I've been poring over some older TFL posts on autolyse, as well as other web sites. 

The traditional definition of autolyse means that only flour and water are combined to enhance flour hydration and gluten formation, with a host of other benefits. 

One post I found said that yeast should not be included in an autolyse because it can potentially form too acidic of an environment, which may not be conducive to flavor (or possibly to gluten development). I can imagine that the addition of lots of leaven (yeast, preferement, etc) could cause problems with autolyse, but I have never experienced this myself.  

My question is:

In your own experience, have you tried autolyse with yeast, as well as without? If so, what difference did it make in the final product for the same recipe? Note I'm not looking for theoretical answers here, i want to know if you were able to perceive a significant difference in the resulting bread. 

For me, I guess my next step will be to run some experiments, and compare the results of autolysed doughs which contain levain vs. those which don't. Considering doughs are autolysed 20 min to 1 hour, those are the intervals that I will be working with. 

 

 


Comments

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I wouldn't consider the experiment of adding yeast to flour and water, then allowing it to rest, as an autolyse.  Not sure what you would call it, but it is not an autolyse. Maybe a premix followed by a rest???


Professor Raymond Calvel developed the autolyse technique and it involves only the flour and water of a formula.  Salt is not added, nor is yeast.  Salt tightens the gluten network and yeast kicks in fermentation, which develops acidity and dough strength - neither of which is desired at that stage.  The only thing you want to happen during the autolyse stage is for the flour to hydrate and the gluten bonds to develop.


While pre-ferments are usually not added, there are two exceptions:  liquid levain or poolish. 


Words mean things.  If another baker tells me he/she autolysed for an hour, then retarded the dough for 14 hours, I will know that baker mixed only the flour and water and allowed it to rest for an hour, and that the dough was placed in the refrigerator for 14 hours - not out in the sun on a picnic table.


I see baker's terms as roadmaps to help guide us in our baking.  There's a purpose for and a definition of each term, and those terms should be respected.


Enjoy your experiments, but please don't call them an autolyse.  They're not.


From TFL's glossary:



Autolyse: a technique for improving gluten development without heavy kneading. Combine the flour and water from your recipe in a bowl and mix until the flour is fully hydrated. Cover the bowl and let the flour hydrate for 20 minutes, then mix in remaining ingredients. The result is development comparable to a dough that has been kneaded for 5 or 10 minutes with less oxydation (which leads to a yellow crumb).



 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi LindyD,

While I appreciate your comments and your lesson in semantics, that was not my question.

I am not disputing the meaning or definition of the term autolyse. That is why I wrote "autolyse with yeast". I believe that still respects the meaning of the word "autolyse", but if you take issue with my use of the term, fine, I don't really care. 

My question was what effect have YOU (or my fellow bakers) seen in their own personal experience with autolyse vs. "using the same technique as autolyse but adding yeast during that same rest period". Saying "autolyse with yeast" was easier for me than writing that whole long thing, and I don't think it confused anybody, including you (you strike me as a capable and thoughtful baker given your knowledge of baking terms as well as your previous posts). 

So if you've had experience with autolyse vs.  "using the same technique as autolyse but adding yeast during that same rest period", I'd like to hear it. If you don't I don't really care either...hey, words mean things. 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

and it involves using the right word for the right purpose.  As LindyD noted, autolyse has been defined by Prof. Calvel as a mixture of water and flour, nothing more.  The term for the mixture that you want to discuss is, generically, a preferment.  More specifically, either a poolish (which would be closer in consistency to a batter) or a biga (which would have a dough-like consistency).


Lexicon aside, the autolyse is primarily used as a means of developing the gluten in the dough by allowing time for the water to hydrate the glutenin and gliadin proteins, rather than depending on mechanical mixing.  A preferment, regardless of type or name, is generally used for two purposes.  First, to develop as much flavor from the flour as possible through the action of the yeast and the enzymes in the flour.  Second, to reduce yeast consumption in the process of making the bread.  The economic issue isn't so big a deal today, given the availability and comparative low cost of yeast, as it would have been when commercial yeast was just entering the marketplace.


A preferment, then, will typically deliver more flavor than will an autolyse.  Depending on the conditions of the preferment, it will often increase the dough's extensibility, too.  That's my experience.


Paul

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi Paul, 


Thanks for the explanation. 


While I agree that "autolyse + yeast"  is a preferment, of sorts, it doesn't seem to fit neatly in the definition of preferment because:



  • Autolyse is typically very short (20-60 minutes, typically), while pre-ferment is longer (2-16 hours).   

  • From what I've read, autolyse doesn't do much for developing flavor (although Hamelman says it does on p9 of "Bread"), whereas most people agree pre-ferment does. 

  • Supposedly the autolyse helps reduce the oxidation which occurs as a result of long, vigorous mixing, which changes dough color (and possibly flavor). I don't know if a pre-ferment has the same effect on oxidation reduction, but I agree it has a definite effect on flavor. 

Unfortunately this still doesn't answer my original question which is how, from your baking  experience, does the same bread vary when autolyse is used vs. when a "short 20-60 minute preferment with yeast" is used instead.   

Looks like I'll be running some tests of my own soon.

Second, to reduce yeast consumption in the process of making the bread.

This is an interesting point; never thought of it that way. So you're saying the use of a pre-ferment (like a starter, biga, poolish, etc), is to reduce (or eliminate) the amount of yeast that needs to go in a recipe? Makes sense. Maybe in a commercial setting this is important, but unlikely in a home baking setting, and baking in the home environment is what I'm concerned about. 

A preferment, then, will typically deliver more flavor than will an autolyse. Depending on the conditions of the preferment, it will often increase the dough's extensibility, too.

So then are you saying is that you think my "autolyse + yeast" will develop more flavor and be more extensible than my "autolyse"? 

Just gives me more to think about, and one more thing to test :)

c.

 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

any other ideas?

Syd's picture
Syd


In your own experience, have you tried autolyse with yeast, as well as without?



Yes, I have.  Recently, I have started giving my sourdoughs a 50 minute autolyse with the levain but no salt. 



If so, what difference did it make in the final product for the same recipe?



For the moment, I believe it contributes to more volume and an open crumb in the final product but I can't say with any accuracy because there could be other factors contributing to this and some more experimentation is necessary.  However, I can say with certainty that it does significantly reduce the bulk fermentation time (from, oftentimes, as much as 5 hours to a consistent 2 and a half hours) and also reduces the time required for kneading by as much as two thirds. 



One post I found said that yeast should not be included in an autolyse because it can potentially form too acidic of an environment, which may not be conducive to flavor (or possibly to gluten development).



I can see this being a problem if your starter is already overly acidic or temperatures too warm.  This happens to me a lot in the warmer months (which is about two thirds of the year here in the tropics) and I imagine when the weather warms up I will have to cut down (or cut out entirely) my autolyse.  However, if your starter is perfectly ripe and smells nice and fruity without being overly acidic, I can't see this being a problem.  An overly acidic environment would cause gluten breakdown and this is exactly the reverse of what I am experiencing with a longer autolyse.  My dough has never been more silky smooth and manageable. 


Syd

cranbo's picture
cranbo

thanks Syd, that's great feedback. 

Nickisafoodie's picture
Nickisafoodie

I've added yeast and salt at the beginning of the rest period although in the last year I moved more towards naturally leavened pan and stone baked breads adding salt after...


That said, when I did add salt at the beginning of the 20 minute rest period I did not notice much of a difference vs. after even though Lindy points out salt tightening gluten, and surely other technical issues.  My breads rose well and baked into high volume loaves using 70% whole wheat (using 100% of the whole grain with bran) and 30% white.


With respect to adding yeast at the begining, my first rise would be shortened to about 45 minutes (after the 20 minute rest period).  Thus a rest period of 20 minutes with yeast at the beginning and a 45 minute rise (to about 80% of doubling) vs. what may be a more typical 60-65 minutes if you added yeast after- no surprise here.


I favored SAF Instant which I found to be far superior to others.  So the "45 minute rise" could be attributed to the yeast rather as much as the extra 20 minutes of activity when adding at the beginning instead of end. 


Other factors include preferments and what proportion is in a given recipe - whether yeast or natural leavan 15-20% would introduce a very high volume of live cultures vs. 5%- one more variable to be mindful of. Also in my case using fresh ground flours (wheat and rye) may provide more nutrients for those little buggers to feast on during the builds, thus faster rise times...  So a composite of factors to contemplate.


Hope this helps...

cranbo's picture
cranbo

also very thoughtful, thank you! 


the reduced bulk fermentation time makes good sense, I'll keep that in mind.

proth5's picture
proth5

An autolyse take place in the absence of yeast  and salt with a notable exception: when a liquid pre ferment is used - and if the liquid pre ferment ties up enough water so that the flour would not be properly hydrated by the remaining water.  We still call this mixture of flour, water, and pre ferment and its being mixed to a shaggy mass an "autolyse."  This incidental addition of yeast does not turn the thing into a "pre ferment" as it is not left long enough to ripen. (And I'll cite both Mr. Hamelman and the BBGA standards on this definition, if I must, but I don't have my source materials with me right now to give chapter and verse)


If you have ever made a liquid pre ferment and kept it from the initial mix you may have had difficulties as you will get little flour lumps that will never go away and damage the texture of the dough.  Learned that the hard way. (See also "Bread...." by Mr. Hamleman.  Of course you'll never forget if you try it yourself.  Had to throw out a whole mess of flour...)


So if you intend to experiment using a liquid levain your results without adding it to the autolyse could be most disappointing.  It isn't the impact of the yeast so much, it's the fact that you won't have enough water in the mix to allow the autolyse to do its good offices.


Anyway, I've run the a test with Mr. Hamelman's Six Fold French bread which is gently mixed, allowed to rest and gently mixed, allowed to rest for 4 or 5 times.  I had it on good authority that the mixing was so gentle that salt in the beginning or salt at the end made no big difference.  And I found out it didn't.  I had it on same authority that with that particular method yeast at the beginning or yeast at the end didn't make a difference.  And it didn't.  The stuff starts to rise a bit if it is warm enough and if commercial yeast is used, but it mixes down and the bread turned out pretty much the same.   With my liquid levains I don't see any rise.  I have not seen a need to shorten my bulk ferment using either commecial yeast or levain. 


I tend to use liquid pre ferments so I always have yeast in the autolyse.  However I see no reason to add additional yeast or the salt when I am mixing in the spiral as they will easily be incorporated into the dough at later stages.


If you are using a levain, I have found that they will add considerable strength to the  final dough especially if it is retarded, even in lower percentages.  But I have not found it to be an issue in the autolyse.


Hope this helps.

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi proth5,


This incidental addition of yeast does not turn the thing into a "pre ferment" as it is not left long enough to ripen.

Yes that's the sense I get, totally agree here. 


I had it on same authority that with that particular method yeast at the beginning or yeast at the end didn't make a difference. And it didn't.

This is the exact kind of first-person information I was looking for. Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed response, which excluded arguments about semantics. 


Regards,


cranbo


 

proth5's picture
proth5

particular attention to the negative effect of NOT adding a liquid pre ferment.  The results are truly nasty.  Just warning you....


Although if you like like learning things the hard way - have fun!

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

My experience closely matches Pat's, but not with the same skilled observation on my part. :) I have not noted any non-trivial differences among yeasted or not yeasted, nor salted or not salted when allowing the rough mixture to set for the purposes of hydrating itself and early development of the gluten structure.


As for as the word autolyse, it is simply the verb form of autolysis, i.e. to autolyse. Lysis is the biological term for cell destruction, digestion or conversion. In this case, M. Clavel seems to have adopted the term to label the self (auto) conversion (lysis) of certain constituent amino acids in the flour to gluten in the presence of water. The good professor may have determined that only flour and water should be used in the process to achieve optimum results. That does not preclude variations on the theme, especially for the home baker. In a large commercial bakery, what I found to be trivial differences, may not be. Never the less, however you vary the process, the flour does become more saturated, and the gluten does develop; all on its own, which is, by definition, to autolyse.


cheers,


gary

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Great info, thanks for sharing your experience. Exactly what I was looking for.

copyu's picture
copyu

but I'm now in the 'Prof Calvel camp'.

A couple of weeks ago, at 5:00am, after a night of editing (and drinking) I messed around a bit with some random biga recipe that I could not connect to any particular formula. I wanted to bake the next day, or the day after, so I just mixed up what was on the little note, determined to use it. The biga was not that active when I checked it 6 hours later...it was almost winter, here. I waited until there was some activity and then asked myself what to bake...I rifled through some computer printouts and found someone's pain au levain called "Variations on Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough" which I had used 4-5 times before, but not that successfully. The appeal of the formula was that JH used a 125% hydration starter and the author and I used 100% hydration starters.  His formula promised that he had 'allowed for the differences'.

Instead of following his instructions (to add the biga to the flour and water prior to the first mix, as I'd done several times before) I decided to try M. Calvel's approach and keep the salt and levain away from the autolyse. I mixed the flours and water, let them rest 50 minutes, then added the grey sea salt to the biga and mushed that up...then the final mixing was completed...et Voila! My first 'perfect' pain au levain, better than the $10 ones in Tokyo's finer bakeries. This, of course, is purely anecdotal and more 'superstition' than science, because I may have changed more than one variable (especially timing, because of the season) but I'm sticking with it! Real 'grigne' and excellent, controlled rise (for the first time in ten tries using 2 different formulae) to make a good pain au levain! I'm a convert.

Best,

Adam

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Adam, thanks for your comments.