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Why Does Autolysis Work?

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chris319's picture
chris319

Why Does Autolysis Work?

Yesterday, for the first time, I gave a batch of SD a two-hour autolysis. I combined the flour, water and starter -- everything but the salt. After standing for two hours at room temperature, I mixed in the salt and let it proof for six more hours at around 88F. The result was the best rise I've ever had! Lately my loaves had been rising but not very much; they were a little flat, and this was the cure.

Why does letting the unsalted dough sit for two hours at room temperature affect the rise so dramatically? What is the chemistry/biochemistry going on under the hood?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

include the SD starter/ levain or salt but still gald your process worked for you anyway.  If it works - it works

Happy baking

MarkS's picture
MarkS

The autolysis method is to develop gluten, and is typically not a fermentation time. The dough rose so much because salt slows and moderates yeast growth. No salt equals out of control yeast growth.

chris319's picture
chris319

I've tried it both ways. If I omit the liquid starter from the autolysis, the ingredients don't come together (too dry) and I have to add more water so the ingredients will mix. Then, when I do add the starter, the dough is too slack (wet). Adding the starter initially is a happy medium. Too, after this two-hour autolysis the dough has to be pliable enough that the salt can be mixed in. I prefer working with a liquid starter and this method works, but for reasons unclear to me.

It might work due to the absence of salt, or it might work because the dough sits at room temperature (mid 70's) before being brought up to the warmer proofing temperature.

chris319's picture
chris319

The autolysis method is to develop gluten, and is typically not a fermentation time. The dough rose so much because salt slows and moderates yeast growth. No salt equals out of control yeast growth.

In order for that to happen, the yeast must be present (starter added during autolysis), otherwise there is nothing for the salt to inhibit. There has to be some fermentation going on in the presence of starter.

Here is how I arrived at the two-hour autolysis period:

Experiments with Autolyse (Autolysis) #1

Experiments with Autolyse # 2

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

When using a liquid starter, you do include the starter in the autolyse, because it contains a significant amount of the total water in the formula.

However, if you did a two hour autolyse that included starter, you were giving fermentation a big head start. If you let fermentation go for 8 hours (including the autolyse) at 88 dF, I would expect the dough to be over-fermented, unless you used a tiny amount of starter.

David

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

is but say a 1000 g bread with 20% levain at 127% hydration liquid starter would have 200 g of levain  with 112 g of water and 88 g of  flour.  If the 1,000 g loaf of white bread was 72% hydration, this would leave 493 g of flour and 307 g of water for the dough and a 62,2% hydration - 10% higher than bagels that are autolysed at that low number because of a stiff levain - without SD or salt included.   If the bread was 75% hydration, as we would likely bake it, then the dough hydration would be 67% just like the hydration of KAF's baguettes.  Bread with very large high hydration levain would be a problem but these arenlt breads most would make since they would proof so fast even  under retardation making for less flavor.

Autolyse is for developing gluten and giving the enzymes a head start to break down starches into sugars for long cold ferments or other later processes without the salt stealing the liquid and the levain there to be fermenting  dough and sugars too soon which would reduce the sugars available for later - longer processes.requiring these sugars. 

I'm with Michael.  When you add levain without salt , all you are really doing is adding a 2 hour bulk ferment on steroids.  But we all have our own thoughts on everything bread, and I m sure a bread head, at a less stature than 'the King of Bread ' recommends doing this for liquid levain in some breads  - and none of us can really be wrong when it comes to baking successful bread - if it works.    

davidg618's picture
davidg618

They aren't mutually exclusive. When I make sourdough I add the levain to the flour and water mixture, and let it rest for an hour primarily to hydrate the flour. However, I appreciate that the dough is also fermenting--more and more efficiently as the flour absorbs the water. Consequently, I include the hydrating hour in my estimation of bulk fermentation time.

Coincidentally, I sprinkle the salt on the surface of the flour/levain/water mixture at the beginning of the hydrating rest period. Why?. So I don't forget to add it during the first kneading. I guess even the professionals have forgetten adding the salt since I picked up this trick reading the BBGA 2005 American Coup de Monde team's story. So, I guess I'm not doing a real autolyse either.

David G

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

on top of the autolyse (no levain) too for the same reason - so i don't forget it.  Learned it from someone on TFL and haven't forgot the salt since:-) I think it is fine to add the levain to the mix and let it sit there for an hour and have it admit that I do that on occasion.  Seems t work fine.  I also did a test on adding the salt to the of flour and water and could never tell a difference in the finished product either.  But neither of them fit the criteria adn meaning  of autolyse that the professor coined for his baking school that was flour and water only  and he specifically excluded levain and salt.  He did this nfor a reason.

It seems that words have a way of changing their meanings when folks use them to mean things different and not in keeping with the original meaning,  I say words do have meaning for good reason and it is best to stick with them.or we won't be able to communicate effectively going forward - and we have enough problems doing that even when we use the same meaning for words:-).

When I say - do an autolyse,  one person might ask - does that include salt, another might ask does that include levain and another might ask does that include salt and levain?  There is no need for this nonsense at all and why words have meanings in the first place - so we can talk to each other effectively. 

Just my 2 cents

Happy baking David  

chris319's picture
chris319

I used the same amount of starter as previously, when my loaves were rising but not very much.

It has to be that two-hour period of salt-free fermentation that the yeast goes into overdrive.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Absolutely, I agree. This is not an autolyses at all. You are inadvently giving your dough a 2hr bulk fermentation. Do you not normaly give your dough some bulk fermentation time? Typically dough that doesn't have some bulk time will result in flatter loaves...

chris319's picture
chris319

Does bulk fermentation typically exclude salt? I called it autolysis because of the omission of salt.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

No. But an autolyse is something that happens in the absense of fermentation. On occasion salt may even be included.

chris319's picture
chris319

an autolyse is something that happens in the absense of fermentation

So starter must be omitted to be considered autolysis, correct? Autolysis may or may not include salt but never includes starter, is that the consensus?

If that is the case then I was doing a bulk fermentation without salt.

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Yep. You got it.

Julie McLeod's picture
Julie McLeod

I'm not one to dispute you folks who are far more experienced than I but nevertheless would like to point out that Chad Robertson calls it an autolysis when it includes the leaven.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

We aren't very good at history or the meaning of words.  The French term Autolyse was coined by by French baking professor Raymond Calvet. The term is best described as the hydration rest following initial mixing of only flour and water that occurs before kneading has fully developed the gluten.

Raymond Calvel (1914/1915 – 30 August 2005) was a bread expert and professor of baking at ENSMIC in Paris, France. Calvel has been credited with creating a revival of French-style bread making as well as developing an extensive body of research on improving bread making technique, including studies of the differences between European and American wheat flour and the development of the autolyse  (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

I say Raymond Calvel, as the creator of the term, out ranks the esteemed Chad .Robertson when it comes to what the term means.   But I'm sure Raymond is not turning over in his grave because of the term's misuse by so many nor is Chad losing any sleep over it :-)

Happy Baking

Julie McLeod's picture
Julie McLeod

I don't think it's an issue of anyone being more right than anyone else and I have no real problem with the fluidity of the language bakers use.  Instead my problem is the suggestion that I'm wrong in calling what I do an autolysis since it has leaven included.  I think it has come into common usage now, perhaps because of bakers like Chad Robertson.  

Antilope's picture
Antilope

according to one source. Slow mixing to make an autolyse is ok, however:.

.
From Page 20 "Bread Baking, An Artisan's Perspective" by Daniel T. DiMuzio
.
"When salt is added to a dough, it tightens the gluten structure and adds strength.
.
"...Salt is a natural antioxidant, and if we subtract salt from a bread dough being mixed at high speed, the rate of oxidation in the dough is dramatically increased. Most of the carotenoid pigments may be destroyed before the salt is added, thereby significantly reducing the flavor and aroma components
associated with them..."
.
Page 52 Bread Baking, "An Artisan's Perspective" by Daniel T. DiMuzio
.
"...Some bread bakers prefer to hold back any salt addition until mixing is nearly finished in an effort to shorten the mix time during production. If bakers do hold back adding the salt, the dough will absorb much more oxygen than normal, and over-oxidation may occur before the salt is added. Flavor and color can be seriously compromised this way, so, in the interest of maintaining good quality, it is optimal for a baker to add the salt toward the beginning of the mixing cycle.
.
An exception to this principle occurs when you incorporate an autolyse into your mixing procedure. During an autolyse, salt is held back until the rest period is over in order to encourage an increase in enzyme activity. Because no high-speed mixing occurs before or during the autolyse, the dough's color and flavor can still be preserved in the temporary absence of salt. Before the remaining mix at high speed commences, the salt in the formula should be added to maximize its anti-oxidizing effects..."

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Well said, and the one other reason to do an autolyse it to soften the hard bits of whole grain flours in the mix to make sure the are as wet and  soft for as long as possible so they cut the gluten strands developed as little as possible,. The more whole grains the longer the autolyse.

chris319's picture
chris319

Those are good reasons to keep the bulk fermentation to 2 hours, at which time the salt is added and the final knead performed, followed by a warm proof.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

the conversation has moved a bit past where I have much new to contribute, that being said as long as my preferment is wetter then my final dough I include it in what I'v been calling an autolyse, and depending on the amount of preferment after completion of my "autolyse" and some very minimal working of the dough I will put it right in the fridge with no proper room temp bulk ferment. Whether or not what I'm doing is the textbook definition of autolyse is of very little consequence to me, as its been serving me pretty good for a while.

chris319's picture
chris319

autolysis is an English biochemical term.

noun Biochemistry .

the breakdown of plant or animal tissue by the action of enzymes contained in the tissue affected; self-digestion. 

It refers to the activity of the enzyme amylase in breaking down the starch in flour. This could occur with or without liquid starter so long as water is introduced. There is nothing in the definition to do with gluten development.

 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/autolysis?s=t 
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autolysis_%28biology%29


mwilson's picture
mwilson

The definition of the word "autolysis" is a biological one, yes. But this is why us bakers use the word "autolyse". Now of course this is just the French equivalent of the same word but it's the meaning of the word, in the context in which we use it that is of most significance.

For me I'm not concerned with nomenclature, only technical understanding is important to me. And with this information I can hopefully make better bread more efficiently and in the most effective manner.

Now as I understand it, oxygenation is the antonym of the autolyse process. A levain and fermented dough contains acid, much more so in sourdough and since all the acids we encounter in baking act as oxidising agents, the addition of it is contradictory... In addition to this acid also causes a physical change to gluten, tightening it.

This being said an autolyse is mostly used as a rest period to allow for sufficient hydration. It is in effect a method of passive dough development. The work that the native enzymes do takes time. Protease and amylase being the key players.

An autolyse really helps to reduce mixing time. Commercial bread production has no time for such a method and instead uses a reducing agent such as L-cystine.

Oxidising agents strengthen gluten, reducing agents weaken it.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

What if half of the recipe liquid is buttermilk or a juice? Is this still an autolyse? Is milk, buttermilk or a fruit juice detrimental to the benefits of an autolyse period?

Or what about a tangzhong roux? Should this be added to an autolyse?

I'm asking this as a serious question, as I often add buttermilk to some of my bread recipes and also often use a tangzhong roux. I wonder if having these ingredients in an autolyse affects it one way or the other?

mwilson's picture
mwilson

Like I said an autolyse is mostly about allowing for sufficient hydration. You're still achieveing this. But it is important to know that acid will only serve to increase mixing time.

A true autolyse works best with just water.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...decades longer than I've been baking sourdough I've been troubled by the word "autolyse" in that, to me, it appeared it simply labeled an early rest period in the bread-baking process whose function is primarily thoroughly hydrating the dough's flour thus initiating its enzymes needed for starch conversion (sugars to feed the yeast and bacteria), and gluten management (protease to regulate gluten development).

In beer-brewing and wine-making the term "autolysis" applies  to the self-destruction of yeast cells, mostly by their own enzymes. (The term is used, more broadly, in biology to label any cell's self-destruction, or enzymes destroyed by other enzymes.) Autolysis is, most often, prevented by removing the fully fermented beer or wine from the precipitated yeast, but not always. For example, autolysis is key to the flavor and mouth-feel of premium champagnes.

We should first recognize alpha and beta amylase, and grain protease evolved to aid grain seeds to produce more grain assuring its reproduction and multiplication. It did not evolve to allow humans to make bread.

Fundamentally, they are digestive aids for the plant to produce growing energy.

Water "wakes them up". 

Autolysis unambiguously, is "death-dealing", Autolyse in a broad sense is "life-giving"

Consequently, I've chosen to refer to "autolyse" as "hydrating the flour" or, simply "wetting the flour". In another post, further down this thread, I've learned the term "autolyse" was coined, allegedly, by the legendary French baker  Raymond Calvel, which explains a lot, for me.

David G

 

chris319's picture
chris319

Funny Julie should bring up the name Chad Robertson. I bought a loaf from his bakery in S.F. in December. The crust was burnt black, way beyond what any of us would consider acceptable. It tasted horribly charred. Apparently they ruined that day's bake. A good baker doesn't burn the goods.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

but also coincidentally pretty par for the course from what I'v seen, the only exposure to real tartine bakery loaves I have had was through photos contributors here posted, and while probably/hopefully very delicious they were, and I hate to say it, not as nice looking as some of the Tartine inspired loaves I'v been seeing on here since everyone got T3 for christmas. I'm moving back west later this month and plan to swing through SF and get to the bottom of it myself.

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

It stinks to have been so disappointed, and I can certainly understand your wanting to gripe about your burned bread at every opportunity. But didn't you see the half loaf you were buying? Why not just pick a loaf that looked more to your liking?

I think it is safe to say his bakery makes fine bread and his bakers are fine bakers. 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Autolysis is simply allowing time for flour to fully absorb water.

As background adding water to flour has many of the same bio-chemical reactions as when the wheat berries are moist enough to begin sprouting, especially so if the flour is an organic whole wheat. Enzymatic activity begins breaking down carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. Gluten development begins. Lactic-Acid-Bacteria and wild yeasts begin to grow.

A 30 minute hydration rest (autolysis) is time tested as being long enough though it can go as long as 4 hours without harm.

Temperature has a slight affect on hydration - low temperatures take slightly longer and higher temperatures slightly shorter time to fully hydrate (60-85 dF).

The fineness of the flour used also affects hydration - a coarse flour requires a longer period while 30 minutes is adequate for most commercial flours.

In learning to make a sour San Francisco type French Bread I found it best to develop the gluten (passes the window pane test) prior to adding the leaven and then the salt.

Crumb is controlled through flour protein content - lower for big alveoli, higher for smaller and percent water hydration.

Each newly purchased batch of flour should be treated as experimental on the first two baking runs. Some require more hydration, some less while occasionally being spot on.

So adding water to flour begins a fairly complex sequence of events important to the outcome of a loaf of bread. 

Wild-Yeast 

chris319's picture
chris319

plan to swing through SF and get to the bottom of it myself.

Be sure to try some Acme sourdough. Tartine might be good if they haven't burnt the day's bake to a crisp. Also try Boudin. After you experience its vinegary flavor you'll understand why it was never a major player back in the day..

The rest isn't San Francisco sourdough. It is San Francisco in name only. It might as well be from Kankakee, Illinois.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

wasn't  major player back in the day, but they were the only one to survive to this day from 1849.  Survivable all these years is a fine mark of greatness.   Their bread is boldly baked, with a rel SD flavor and still costs $3.99 a loaf - the real value in SFSD for those who can't afford $10  loaf for bread.  If longevity, bold bake, sour taste and affordability are the criteria - no other bakery in SF scores higher in a y category and Boudin wins hands down - no competition.

Just because you think Boudin wasn't a player doesn't mean it didn't win out over all the others - which it did - and it wasn't luck.  It just finished last again with Tartine first in a recent poll.... but it will outlast them all, just like always - no doubt.

chris319's picture
chris319

But didn't you see the half loaf you were buying? Why not just pick a loaf that looked more to your liking?

You go in, ask for a half loaf of sourdough, they hand it to you sight unseen in a paper bag and you're on your way. If they bake once per day as I understand is the case, it stands to reason that the entire day's bake was burnt, so there wouldn't necessarily have been other unburnt loaves to choose from. You don't see your loaf before they hand it to you in a paper bag. I visited several other bakeries during that trip, some larger, some smaller, and all of their loaves were fine. One would think such a renowned baker would exercise better oversight over the quality of his business's product.

If WoodenSpoon is going to swing through S.F., perhaps he can swing by the Tartine bakery at 4:30 pm, pick up a loaf and let us know what he thinks. I plan to revisit Tartine in December and will report if the problem still exists.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

The brand survives - the following piece clarifies ownership changes of Boudin over time. I call it more an institution than anything else...,

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/A-slice-of-history-returns-to-S-F-Boudin-2766843.php

Though Herb Caen "used to say Boudin's "dark bake" sourdough, fresh cracked crab and a bottle of chilled Chardonnay was "the quintessential San Francisco meal."" I've found that a bottle of Anchor Steam beer is at times more satisfying on those rare sweltering summer days in February...,

Wild-Yeast

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

its real estate being by far the best.  It's all about -  Location, location, location if you ask me and it is tough to beat the wharf for location - regardless of what we are drinking:-)

In the the old days location also played a big part of what bread you liked the best,  Not the location of the bakery but where you lived in relation to your bakery.  I lived close to Colombo and liked their bread the best and I could walk past there on the way home.  Parisan was probably the best but still # 2 in my book because it was so far away and I didn't get a chance to sample much and they were big inti retail.   Toscana would be #3.  Larraburu was a distant 4th but it was mass produced, grocery store and airport bread mostly.  I remember bringing a loaf it to my Mom from the airport, she loved it. - not that Boudin and Parisian weren't big retailers too they were just so in a different way.

Things really went down hill when Interstate Baking bought Parisian, Colombo, and Toscana and took out the hearths at the latter two to increase production bread at my 2 favorites went down hill fast.  Then Interstate went belly up the first time in the mid 90's and that was the end of 3 of the very best Bread bakers in S F.

Good thing is that some very good 'artisan' bakeries are back in spades and none of them are really into quantity over quality - but the bread is so expensive - few can afford to enjoy it. 

 

chris319's picture
chris319

Boudin might be OK if you're schnockered on Chardonnay.

There used to be much better breads than Boudin available in the area. I've had them all at one time or another. There is one currently-operating bakery that makes a much better sourdough than Boudin and I hope WoodenSpoon gives it a try.

If Herb Caen liked Boudin, I can't argue with him owing to the fact that he's dead. Boudin's longevity isn't due to the quality of their product.

WoodenSpoon's picture
WoodenSpoon

I'l be trying all I can get my hooks into

 

chris319's picture
chris319

I'l be trying all I can get my hooks into

Would you like my itinerary from December? Do swing by the Rainbow Grocery under the freeway at 1745 Folsom street. Lots of sourdough to choose from and the one-stop shopping will save you a lot of leg work.

You'll discover two things: they can't make S.F. sourdough in S.F. any more, and it's not "the fog", "the air", "the climate", etc. that are responsible for the flavor of S.F. SD.

To their credit, these nouveau bakeries will tell you candidly that they're not trying to emulate the old-school sourdoughs.

chris319's picture
chris319

In those days all of the major sourdough brands, including Parisian, were available in every supermarket and almost every mom & pop corner grocery. If you wanted sourdough you went to the local Safeway, Cala Foods, CoOp, Purity, wherever, and you had your choice of about a half dozen brands. Proximity to the bakery was not the deciding criterion. Our family lived on the peninsula so all of the bakeries were far away.

The USDA did not include Boudin in its research. It was not a major player.

Boudin's bakery is located in the avenues.

Antilope's picture
Antilope

Here's a link to news stories about Boudin recently opening a branch bakery in Vacaville, CA, about 75 miles north of San Francisco. They set up a big publicity stunt by sending a piece of the 165 year old "Mother Dough", with a CHP police escort, from San Francisco to Vacaville. The story said they are going to replenish the "Mother Dough" once a month, at the branch bakery, to ensure it stays the same as the one in San Francisco.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/37031/chp-escort-165yearold-dough

chris319's picture
chris319

Funny. When your product is so-so you need all the publicity you can get.

If I, as a California taxpayer, paid for that CHP escort, I find it highly objectionable.

A while back I saw a post from a guy claiming the je ne sais quoi of S.F. SD was the fog, the air, the climate, the wild yeast found only in S.F., etc. A search on the poster's name revealed he was a vice president of marketing for guess what bakery.

Supermarket chains use what are called parbakes -- partially baked loaves which are frozen at the main bakery, with the final bake being done at the retail location. I don't know if Boudin does this at their myriad retail locations.

Boudin's main bakery is in the avenues.

Dnsjo1's picture
Dnsjo1

Thank you YW for the fitting conclusion on autolysis. My head was spinning but sanity is now restored.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

 Dnsjo1, you are welcome. Glad to be of help.

Wild-Yeast