The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolyse and Gluten

Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

Autolyse and Gluten

I am new to bread baking and have about a dozen batches of bread under my belt, most of them sourdough and a few Tang Zhong loaves.  I use a Kitchen Aid mixer to mix my dough.

I just read through this scaled recipe for Peter Reinhart's Italian bread:

and noticed that it does not call for what I understand as a true autolyse (rest prior to adding salt).  If I made this bread with an autolyse instead of the instructions, would it produce an inferior loaf? 

Also, I see that a great number of artisan recipes call for stretch and folds to build gluten, yet for each of the sourdough loaves I've baked, while they had a tender crumb, did not have enough structure for them to 'stand' up, and ended up with a slightly flattened shape.  I'm guessing this is because I didn't build enough gluten into the dough, or could it be that the flours I'm using (Central Milling Artisan Select and KAF Sir Galahad) aren't strong enough?

Thanks for any advice you can share.





lepainSamidien's picture

Hey John,

I do not think that a true autolyse would produce an inferior loaf. In fact, a true autolyse will actually help you with the second problem you are running into, as a TRUE autolyse (no salt, no leavening) will contribute significantly to the development of the gluten in your dough. Following the autolyse, you can then incorporate your levain, followed by the salt. It may take some time to disperse them evenly, but do so patiently and calmly, and your efforts will be rewarded.

As regards gluten development, in addition to effecting a true autolyse, it is important that your stretch and folds are not performed diffidently, but rather, with strength and conviction ! Call me crunchy, but I am of the opinion that your dough will not respect you if you are TOO gentle with it, especially when you are trying to coax those gluten strands into lining up nicely. Make sure you are REALLY stretching your dough before folding it. Different doughs will require different stretching strengths, and you have to learn from practice to attend to the needs of the dough. The number of stretch and folds will also vary from batch to batch, with some requiring as few as two or three, while others may need six or seven to really stay together. Just gotta get a feel for it, which means, back to the kitchen to make more bread! Allez-y!!!

Best of luck, and keep us posted !

dabrownman's picture

at least 6 - 8 minutes of slap and folds right after the autolyse is finished and the  levain and salt are added to the dough.  I usually quit the slapping after the dough stops sticking to the counter.  If it doesn't quit sticking after 8 minutes i give it a 20 minuter rest and then do another minute.

This technique significantly develops the gluten before much fermentation takes place, making for a more open crumb later on and ensures, that once the stretch and folds are done, the gluten is in tip top shape. This is especially important with wet dough that are subject to spread rather than spring. 

Happy Baking 

hanseata's picture

Reinhart's Italian bread has a large preferment: the biga contains already half of the flour. Therefore it doesn't call for an extra autolyse. In his following books, "Whole Grain Breads" and "Artisan Bread Every Day" he changed his method a bit, and includes periods of autolyse.

But he mixes all ingredients, including salt, at once, and does not add it later. I use his technique and others, like Forkish's, depending on the recipes I use, and can't say I ever saw a difference whether the salt was added right away or later.


Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

lepain, for your response!  I have been curious how to properly administer stretch and folds (intensity and duration) and now have a game plan.  I have felt that each successive S&F creates a 'tighter' dough, and that now my objective will be to identify when to quit.  I surmise this will be more elusive with yeasted breads since at some point the yeast will take over whereas a SD levain obviously leaves more time.

As for being more assertive with my S&F's, I'm all over it.  I'm looking forward to seeing if an aggressive S&F shortens the process, and, of course, how it helps with oven rise and loaf shape.

dabrownman, I have long wondered how gluten development affects crumb structure, and in particular, the affects of over-kneading.  As I have attempted two or three Bertinet-inspired slap-n-folds with +75% pizza doughs, I feel I'm getting a handle on the air-trapping technique.  Now I have a rough idea on how to gauge the gluten development, and when to stop, thank you.

Karin, thanks for your comments on the biga  they make sense.  My young library currently contains Reinharts "Crust and Crumb", Robertson's "Tartine Bread", Kastel's "Artisan Breads" and Scott's "The Bread Builders".   I think my next book will be Forkish's.





Twisted Brick's picture
Twisted Brick

I have been following your advice and being really assertive with my S&F's.  Coupled with no less than 7 S&F's during today's batch, I also discovered how important it is to be attentive to my starter's rise and fall schedule.  

Now I just gotta repeat it.