The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolyse Always Necessary?

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Autolyse Always Necessary?

I typically autolyse all my doughs prior to adding the salt.  Today I am baking a 40% rye type loaf and had missed the autolyse step, adding the salt during the initial mix.

Should I be worried?  Is autolyse always necessary?  I did knead by hand for a good 15-20 minutes.  Yes, I am out of shape by the way, thanks for asking.

John

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Autolyse was "invented" by Professor Raymond Calvel as an alternative to "intensive" mixing, particularly for baguettes. As high-speed mechanical mixers gained wide spread use in France after WW II, baguettes could be made with whiter crumb (which was seen as higher class) and with a much shorter fermentation time. The "cost" was that the resulting bread lacked flavor and also had a more even crumb with small holes. The poor flavor was due to oxidation of the caratinoid pigments in the flour and the shorter fermentation. The even crumb was due to the way the mechanical mixer folded the dough, creating a more regular gluten network which, under a microscope, looks a lot like woven fabric. (Hand kneaded dough has a more chaotic gluten network that translates into a more open crumb with a random distribution of holes of differing sizes.)

Calvel found that by mixing just the flour and water and delaying addition of salt, yeast and pre-ferments and letting this mix sit for 20 minutes, one could achieve good gluten development with briefer mechanical mixing. He advocated a brief low-speed mix followed by a brief high-speed mix. This has been called an "improved" mix, in contrast to a "short" mix, which uses low-speed only, and an "intensive" mix.

During the autolyse, the flour is hydrated, and gluten begins to form. Also, protease enzyme in the flour are activated. Protease degrades some of the gluten bonds and results in more extensible dough, which is particularly desirable for shaping baguettes. (The reason for not adding the salt until later is that salt inhibits protease activity.)

I believe autolyse is a good technique for many other breads where the flavor is that of the flour itself and where good gluten development and an open crumb are desirable. It is not an issue with rye breads, where a short mix is generally used, or with enriched breads where much of the flavor is from the enrichments (eggs, fat, milk, etc.).

I hope this helps.

David

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

David. This helps a lot thank you so much.  My ryes came out nicely so there was no need for me to worry.  Thankfully it was rye I was baking and not a higher hydration bread.

John

Fromscratchpatisserie's picture
Fromscratchpati...

Hey david

just read post and sounda great. can a larger more open crumb be achieved in croissants, using this method also? At te moment, the flour I am using is extremely strong. To counter this my method is as follows:

short mix followed by a fast mix with an addition of butter. 

Continue until approx DDT is 27c

allow to bench rest and double

knock back and proceed with 3xdouble book folds before placing in fridge overnight. 

admittedly, the finished product is great but always looking at other maven yes if more efficient.

cheers

jonny

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I made croissants once 40 years ago. So, my experience is limited, to say the least. I suppose you could use an autolyse, before adding the butter to the dough, but I don't think it's usually done. Perhaps others with more experience with vienoisserie than I can help you.

David

proth5's picture
proth5

I've been practicing on croissants for some weeks now (yes, my faithful bread tasters have been "forced" to eat butter, flakey, tasty morsels that have not been perfectly laminated - poor folks).  Anyway, the crumb (or honeycomb) of the croissant is largely the result of the butter as it releases water vapor during baking.  So what makes a good croissant is the quality of the lamination.  It is important that the butter does not break up and that the laminated layers are very even.

So I wouldn't see autolyse as a means to getting better crumb in croissants.  You are building plenty of strength through the lamination process.

Additionally - none of the well qualified bakers that I have learned from have ever advocated it.  They have been responsible for making some celebrated baked goods, so if autolyse really would improve their output - I'm sure they would have done it.

I have been using a liquid levain pre ferment as advocated by Advanced Bread and Pastry - which would incorporacte some of the protease action that has been discussed.  This was advocated for those of us who do not have a sheeter and must laminate by hand as a way to keep the dough from getting too developed in the laminating process. I preferment a lower protein flour, but us King Arthur Bread flour (a strong flour) for the remainder.

My opinion - but a fairly educated one.

Hope it helps.

vavo's picture
vavo

Hi John,

one thing to keep in mind is the fact that - as David described so nicely - autolyse is a way to work with gluten development. Part of that is that the gluten begins to break down and makes bread more extensible. Since rye barely has any gluten it would weaken any rye bread even more, so by not doing an AL on your 40% rye you did the exact right thing. You want the remaining 60% wheat flour strong to give your bread the strength to rise and spring. I would not do an AL for any bread with 30% or more rye flour.

Happy Baking,

Valentin

vavo's picture
vavo

Hi Jonny,

Since croissant dough is generally fairly stiff I would not use AL for that. But there are a few things you can try:
- Use All purpose flour rather than High Gluten
- Mix extremely short! give it only about 20-40 seconds on first speed, just until the dough comes together and then only 30 seconds on 2nd speed. This leaves the dough under developed, but when you fold in the butter you work the dough so much that the gluten develops further. A nice side effect is that the roling out becomes a lot easier.

you should try to achieve the dough temperature by calculating the water/ milk temperature rather than by mixing it more.

I hope it helps!

Valentin

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

so evident the effect of autolyse on the dough? I used it several times, but if I had to count the perceivable effects on the structure I would end at 0.

Prof. Calvel supposedly used french flours, while I used for many years italian flours that are very similar. I never found a remarkable difference with or without autolyse. The dough didn't develop more extensible. It seemed to have some cohesion after the rest,  but it was illusory: if I worked it for few seconds it showed how fragile it was (and desperately needing development).

I guess that with really strong american flours I would experience something completely different, but didn't Calvel use french flours?

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi nico,

I found that autolyse works very well with flours that have no additives. But a lot of millers add vitamin C and other little helpers.

I had some difficulty with such flours and found a similar breakdown as you describe, the last time when I used a 550 flour (Vitamin C added) from a local mill during a visit to my parents (southwest Germany). 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I do find autolyse improves dough extensibility. My white flour is generally about 11.5% protein.

Juergen's reply is relevent in that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tends to increase elasticity, as I understand it, so this would counteract protease effects.

Vitamin C was introduced to French baking to strengthen their low-protein, soft wheat flour. Calvel did use it, but after the autolyse, as I recall.

David

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks for the help everyone.  I am not 100% convinced yet that autolyse does or doesn't effect my rye breads.  I am still new at all this so only time and testing will convince me.  I did however, notice that my dough had more structure to it when I did the autolyse.  Yesterday's bake, I could not create a tight surface during shaping and after proofing the dough was starting to tear at the surface.

John

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi John,

With rye in your dough you also introduce quite a bit of enzymes that speed up the gluten breakdown, and that is not exactly what one wants. It is also one of the reasons why you use sourdough for rye breads, the acid inhibits those enzymes. 

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Thanks Juergen.  Nice to hear from you.  I am still a bit green with baking rye bread.  Hit and miss.  I wish there were more videos out there on rye breads.  I learn better with tutorial videos.  For some reason wall except a few videos are either for baguettes or sourdough/other white breads.

John

Juergen Krauss's picture
Juergen Krauss

Hi, I realised that my comment could be confusing, and I want to clarify what I meant:

1. The initial post is a bout rye sourdough, and that is what I am referring to.

2. In Rye sour the high amylase activity needs to be inhibited, otherwise the pentosan network can't be fixated by gelatinising starch during the bake

3. Proteolytic activity in Rye sour is boosted by the acids, and this is one of the flavor generators in rye sour.

Now, if we mix rye sour with wheat - as in the case above - it gets really interesting. This currenty keeps my breadhead spinning.

Cheers,

Juergen

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What I have picked up is that rye flour with bran bits acts differently than rye flour without the bits.  It ferments faster and rips apart faster.  If this bran containing rye flour is put in with the sour build, the loaf tends to behave itself better.  So my answer is that an autolyse with just the starter, water and rye flour, especially 30% to 50% range is not a bad way to go.  Then the Q becomes if this is a build or an autolyse?  When is the best time to add the wheat flour?

Is it better to blend the flours first for the dough or separate them?  Combine all the wet ingredients to all the combined dry ingredients?  Or   Autolyse the wheat with water / combine the rye with sourdough starter   wait and then combine them?  

Mini

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Mini,

I regularly (but not frequently) test all of these ideas.  I use rye starter in almost all of my breads and sometimes make discoveries through mistakes like milling the rye much too coarse for the building of the starter.  This "mistake" yielded a wonderful bread which speaks to your observation of fine rye flour vs. coarse with bran.  I also combine wheat and rye with wonderful results.  It seems that the possible variations in ingredients and technique are just about endless...and great fun.

Jeff