The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolyse Before Levain / How Long Is Too Long?

b166er's picture

Autolyse Before Levain / How Long Is Too Long?

So, I have read that some doughs benefit from a long autolyse (like whole wheats). How long is too long? Why not mix your dough when mixing the levain build? Then when the levain is done, you mix the two and start fermentation immediately. I hate to over simplify but thats what I do.

Recent Example - 70% White Whole Wheat with SD

Tried my first whole wheat bread using my month old starter. I have read that WW's benefit from a longer autolyse and some even do it overnight, prior to adding the levain. I decided to use time to my advantage and while my levain build was still "cooking" I mixed the flour and water about two hours before the levain was ready.

I have nothing to compare it to, other than mostly white doughs but this dough was wonderful to work with. Even at 85% hydro!!! Truth be told, the receipe called for 80% but when it came time to mix the levain and dough together, I found that thinning the levain would be needed. So, I added another 5%. Next time, I will stick with 80% in hopes of a little more volume.


The crumb had an outstanding texture. Soft but with a real nice chewiness to it. The crust was not as insane crunchy as my "whites" but it still had some nice crispiness and a great mouth feel. Flavor was great. Especially after letting it rest.

dabrownman's picture

sometimes autolyse the dough flours while building the SD or YW levain.  I usually build the levain hydration to what the final hydration of the dough will be.  Never had a problem up to 12 hours but refrigerate it if going over 4 hours.  Then you have to give it enough time to warm up before incorporating the levain. 

MangoChutney's picture

All my flour soaks overnight, for the same time and in the same place as the levain builds.  I use 100% whole grain flours.  They are milled directly into the mixing containers filled with liquid or starter.  You can't get fresher flour than that.  *grin*