The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

some issues with my WW sandwich (how to autolyse? crust tearing and baking)

Simisu's picture

some issues with my WW sandwich (how to autolyse? crust tearing and baking)

So, around two years ago i decided to start making my own breads and found this amazing website... since then i've been trying to perfect my home made Whole Wheat bread with added sesame and either poppy or linen seeds.

took me about a year to really get the hang of it and i settled on some kind of method and regime. (which i detailed below but now realize is a lot of info that has not much to do with my questions so i think it's better if i ask first and just leave it down there for reference if anyone is interested to go into the detail, which would of course be much appreciated)

so basically i'm thinking of incorporating an autolyse into my regime, i tried it before but found it very hard to incorporate everything i was putting into the dough... i don't have a machine, i do everything by hand and it's hard enough work as it is managing a 2.5kg dough!

so i'm wondering what would be a good way to incorporate a biga and all the rest of the ingredients like salt and dry yeast into an autolyse WW dough, i'm guessing it's ok to autolyse the dough with the sesame seeds already inside right? (one less thing to add later)... also what's the deal with salt and the autolyse, i don't quite understand when or if to add it to a WW autolyse?!

another thing that's nagging me is that my crusts always tear from one side... i don't make a cut because even when i do it still does that. i don't know if i'm putting too much dough into these pans or if my technique is bad or what... i'm pretty sure its all of it together but i don't know what to do... my shaping of late has gotten better but still i'm not sure what i'm doing is actually supposed to go in a pan...

and as for the baking, i used to put some water right at the start to create steam but as of late i'm starting to think that maybe having that much bread all at once is enough humidity as it is (in all honesty there wasn't much difference this way or that) my crusts have never been amazing but lately are not so bad either *that is to say there is A crust you might actually call a crust hehe....

i bake 4 loaves at a time about once every two weeks (for the wife and my self) that's about all my freezer can handle

my recipe goes more or less like this (sometimes i'd use a little less gluten rich and more whole wheat...)

1.5kg flour 100% 

1050g WholeWheat 70%

450g Gluten Rich Wheat flour 30%

1050g water (70% hydration)

27G salt

27g dry yeast

35g Olive oil

60g sesame

and some linen seeds added when shaping the loaves


i usually make a biga from 300g WW and 1.2 g of dry yeast at 80% hydration (240g) and let it sit for about 3 hours or so.

i then mix it in after all the dry materials have been mixed into the remaining flour by cutting it into the smallest pieces i can before adding the remainder of my water and oil mixing and kneading for a while, usually at this stage i end up adding flour because it's too sticky... then i give it 2 or 3 stretch and folds spread about 10 to 15 minutes apart and leave it for the bulk fermentation.

sometimes on cold days when i have time i degas and let it rise again

and lastly i cut it into four pre shape into a tube let rest for 5 minutes and then flatten spread the seeds, roll and put into the pan (i got 3 cheap metal pans and 1 big glass pan) for the final proofing (where i let it grow about 30% more... where the dough is already peeking out of the pan)

i then put it in the preheated oven on max (gas oven on gas mark 6) for 20 minutes and then lower to gas mark 4 for around 30 minutes more.

all in all i'm very pleased with my outcome usually so either way im happy but any and all help will be most appreciated, thanks!


clazar123's picture

My first question is a terminology/ingredient question. Is "gluten rich wheat flour" a strong flour (bread flour in USA)? I will answer as if it is.

What wheat flour do you use? A commercially milled? Home milled?

Both of these are very thirsty flours and the trick is to not only give it the amount of water it needs but also the time to absorb it. Think wood and sponge. A sponge (white flour and the starchy part of whole wheat) absorbs water very quickly. A block of wood (equivalent to the bran portion of the whole wheat) takes a LONG time to absorb water. I wouldn't use a block of wood to mop a puddle! So building in some form of autolyse is necessary for a great loaf of WW. Otherwise after the bake, the "wood" parts continue to absorb the water from the crumb and you end up with a loaf that crumbles and breaks. Very annoying when you want to take a bite of that delicious sandwich and it falls apart in your lap.

You have to have enough water to really develop the starchy gel in your loaf and that can be a physically demanding chore. Look up "windowpane" in the search box.Gluten is like the windowframe and the starchy gel is the window. With WW it is a speckled window but it will still form. I would hold off on adding the seeds until that stage is achieve because the seeds ten to make the "glass" break and it is hard to judge (esp when first learning) if it is done.

 If your loaf is 70%, I would actually call that low hydration for WW. It is perfect for AP flour. When you add high gluten flour, that just makes it drier and a really hard dough to knead. You may need to increase the water to soften the dough to stickiness and as you knead and autolyse, it will become tacky instead of sticky.  

You have several ways of doing this and you will probably get many seemingly conflicting answers and methods. Try one and see how it works for you. There are SO many ways to make a loaf.

Mix flours oil and water until all water seems absorbed. Let sit for 30 minutes or longer time in refrigerator (24 hours).Knead until windowpane THEN add rest of ingredients. Bulk rise to double, Shape/pan/proof/bake.

Mix flours,oil,yeast,water and mix until just incorporated. Sit for 30 minutes. Knead to windowpane THEN ADD SALT! (My most freq bad habit is to forget the salt so I often don't do this method)Cold retard at cool temp. I have been known to throw it in the refrig for 24 hours. Warm for 1-2 hours, allow to rise to double (bulk ferment) and proceed as usual.

Mix everything (except seeds)-knead to windowpane,add seeds,cold retard in refrig overnight. Allow to warm and finish rising if necessary,proceed with shaping/pan/proof/bake.

I could go on and on but the vital concept you really have to pay attention to is that the flours have enough hydration, they be given time (using whatever method) to absorb it and that you develop the starchy gel (indicated by a windowpane).

Salt genereally interferes with the formation of starchy gel. If you make porridge for breakfast, you will get a much creamier bowl if you cook the oats without salt and then add it before eating. Same with bread. Alton Brown has a wonderful TV show called "Good Eats" that he talks the science behind foods. If you want just the salt/starch explanation, advance this You Tube to 8:35 though the whole show is excellent.

Have fun!

dabrownman's picture

The hydration of your recipe seems low I would autolyse the white flour for 1 hour and the who grains for 4 hours.  So yo donlt forget the salt like I did all the time i now just sprinkle the salt on top of the autolyse dough ball.  It sort of melts on top no worries.  I too don't use machines for my one loaf of bread a week but i put a lot more stuff in mine that you do.  I grind my flax seeds with sesame seeds since flax will just go through the body without being digested otherwise.  I add these things to the autolyse or any other thing tiny in size like toadies: toasted - sifted out 25% from home milled grain (bran, endosperm, germ and other sifted middlings). crushed aromatic seeds.,etc.

Once the levain and the autolyse come together i do slap and folds for about 10-12 minutes to develop the gluten and then finish it ff with 3 sets of S&F's to incorporate the extra bigger add ins. 

The larger stuff like nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, re-hydrated fruits, whole berry soakers, scalds and cooked gruel I add in on the 1st and 2nd set of S&F's  by the 3rd set they are all incorporated. Here is an example and happy baking.

holds99's picture

The term Autolyse refers to a rest period for the final dough mix (usually 30 minutes, sometimes a little longer) which is done after a few minutes initial mix of the final dough .  The purpose of Autolyse is to allow the dough to rest after a short mix of the liquid and flour together into a shaggy mass.  This rest period allows the flour to absorb the liquid in the final dough mix before moving on to the full final mix.  The Autolyse is done before adding the salt to final dough mix and prior to proceeding with the full final mix.  To the best of my knowledge, Professor Raymond Calvel was the French baking instructor responsible for creating the Autolyse.



dabrownman's picture

How do you use the autolyse technique?  Simply combine the flour and water from your recipe in your mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic or a damp towel.  Walk away for 20 minutes to half an hour.  That's it.

No salt no levain or yeast is in the autolyse.  I autolyse much longer and hour for white flour and 4 hours minimum for whole grains and up to 8 - don't want any levain or yeast in that :-) 

Happy baking

holds99's picture

Here's a link that basically explains autolyse.  In the video Ken premixes his flour and water for his autolyse.  I usually autolyse after the flour, water and levain are mixed together, but before the salt is added to the dough mix.  It works either way.  The objective is to provide a rest period for the dough mix after the water is introduced in order to allow the dry flour a sufficient amount of time to absorb the liquid.

Good luck with your baking endeavors,