The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolysing, more or less, mixing by hand

jimbodeuxe's picture

Autolysing, more or less, mixing by hand

I am a weekend baker for the past 3.5 years and I stick to a pretty narrow repertoire of SD miche's, batards, baguettes and pizza dough (and a variation of pizza from Lebanon called manouche so that my wonderful wife doesn't repatriate).  I have a Compact but it really isn't big enough so half the time I do it by hand. I would grade myself an intermediate amateur home bread baker.

Now to the crux of the post, autolysing. Many (most?) recipes I follow include an initial autolysing, sometimes just the flour and water and other times just without the salt. The typical period is 30 mins although, in particular, some pizza dough and baguette recipes I read suggest going much longer. Jeff Varasano in his excellent pizza blog extols the virtues of  autolysing and basically says that just 20 minutes can be the difference between a good and crumby dough.

I am wondering whether it might not be beneficial to extend the autolysing period. I don't bake enough and with two small kids, a crowded kitchen and a busy schedule, scientific experimentation with micro variations and all the right timing isn't happening in my houshold anytime soon. But I have been extending the autolysing period for the flour and h20 alone, especially when doing larger batches by hand and my sense of it is that I am getting a cleaner and better developing dough. 

Let's say I am doing a 4kg batch. The current technique I employ is to put all the h20 into my mixing container followed by all the flours, which I will mix quickly and thoroughly by hand. Drop the lid on it and let it rest -- if the house is warm and I want to let it go 12 hour or more, it goes into the fridge; if it is cool, like now it's 65f, I will probably leave it out. I have let the flour-h2o autolyze for as much as 36 hours but whether it is 6 or 36, the mix is easy to work with and to add in the starter and salt when I get started. And while I cannot be certain it is attributable to the autolysing, the final bread product seems to have a more consistent and richer crumb.

Can anyone tell me if there are known pros and cons to extending the autolysing period or what their experiences have been? How long is too long?



wildman's picture

I autolyse bread and pizza dough but I don't think there is much difference between a 40-50 minute autolyse and anything longer that I can taste or see anyway. For straight doughs I would imagine having autolysed dough on hand ready to use could be pretty handy but I don't think extended autolyse times offer anything for long rise doughs. But pretty much all of the bread and pizza dough I make tends to have long rise times with resting time on the bench after initital shaping of the dough into balls to be shaped. Many of my best doughs are made for 12-14 hour overnight proofing in the fridge or cool kitchen counter so they probably don't gain much from a very long autolyse period. 


 EDIT: BTW I am primarily mixing by hand. 

giyad's picture

Hey Jim,

Aren't mnaeesh amazing!  I got into baking recently because I wanted to eat some myself and they aren't easy to find in the US...  So far the best results I've gotten are with a mixture of bread flour and cake flour, but I'm still experimenting and having fun with it.  One piece of advice, I recently discovered myself, is to put the oven to the highest temperature you can when baking the manousheh the best results.  To answer your question though, I suggest you read these experiments

Autolyse with levain

Pure autolyse adding levain or yeast later

I haven't had the time to experiment with autolyse myself just yet, so I can't attest to how they turn out with mnaeesh, but I can't imagine it would be any different.  I'm going to start my tests in the next couple of days so I'll post my findings when I get the chance.