The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Autolyse: minimum hydration levels, other liquids?

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BakerNewbie's picture
BakerNewbie

Autolyse: minimum hydration levels, other liquids?

When doing an autolyse, what is the minimum hydration level required for it to work?

Also, aside from water, what other liquids can go into an autolyse? Eggs whites? Milk? Etc.?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Autolyse  (or dough autolysis) A process in which the flour and water in a formula are mixed together at low speed and allowed to sit for a rest period, usually of 20 minutes.  This pre-hydration allows for better links between gluten and starches and results in shorter mix times and improved dough extensibility.  Loaves made with autolysed dough will be easier to shape and will have more volume and better crumb structure.  Due to the shorter mix time (less oxidation), the dough may retain more of the carotenoid pigment responsible for the creamy-yellow color desired in well-crafted bread. 

http://tinyurl.com/kxjt5t4

Generally, only flour and water are used in an autolyse.  Milk, eggs, oil, are never to be included.

The TFL FAQ includes a glossary of baking terms you may find helpful.

BakerNewbie's picture
BakerNewbie

So with regards to my original question: what is the minimum hydration level needed for autolyse?

Also, for recipes with low amounts of water, why not add liquid milk, eggs whites, etc. as they are mostly water anyway?

ghazi's picture
ghazi

There is an article in Italian which goog;e translates into English. The master Italian baker says to hydrate the autolyse at 55% for 5 - 6 hours. Now this seems to be the case if yo have a 50% hydrated starter to start with. But I don't see anyharm in just adding the rest of water after autolyse and leaving to soak in, bring together and adding your say 100% hydrated starter then. Im all for stiff doughs, developing more slowly therefore more peace of mind.

http://www.dolcesalatoweb.it/2013/05/giorilli-ci-spiega-la-tecnica-dellautolisi/

There are lots of opinions on this and just use what works for you, no REAL right or wrong.

The more hydrated the autolyse the less it should sit, therefore minimizing the chances of breaking down during mixing or S & F.

Regarding milk etc, I guess its ok though because it is a fat, a classic autolyse will be just water/flour that is how the purists see it and makes sense because those are the essentials to making good bread.

nmygarden's picture
nmygarden

Hi. I can't tell you the minimum hydration, but if you're concerned that your flour won't be able to hydrate sufficiently, you can autolyse a portion of the flour from the formula, and mix the rest in when you incorporate the remaining ingredients. Oil interferes with hydration and the other ingredients are subject to spoiling while left out for an extended period.

All the best!

Cathy

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Professor Raymond Calvel, foremost expert on French bread production, introduced the autolyse technique in response to the intensively mixed, bland, lousy tasting baguettes being produced by French bakers in the 1960-1970s.

Essentially, the purpose of the autolyse is to foster passive gluten development, which leads to less mixing time and less chance of oxidation.

The autolyse technique is beneficial when mixing lean French breads and naturally leavened breads (sourdough). It is never used with rye, since rye lacks gluten. Nor have I seen it suggested in any formula for an enriched dough. At least not in the bread books on my library shelf.

Given your added ingredients of milk, oil, and eggs, you appear to be making an enriched dough. Fat (oil, butter, etc) shortens gluten strands and interferes with the bonding of gluten - which is the opposite effect of what we try to achieve with an autolyse.

I don't know why you think you need to do it, but if you're mixing an enriched dough, just skip it.

BakerNewbie's picture
BakerNewbie

Good to know about not using autolyse in enriched doughs. The original recipe doesn't call for egg yolks and milk, but it does call for oil (or perhaps I can substitute for lard/shortening). Does having oil/lard/shortening mean that autolyse is pointless for me to do?

Also, back to the original question: what is the minimum hydration levels for autolyse?

LindyD's picture
LindyD

A lean dough consists of flour, water, salt, and leavening (wild or commercial yeast). Add oil to the mix and it's no longer a lean dough, but an enriched dough.  You can skip the autolyse.  

I've never heard of a "minimum hydration level for autolyse" as the technique involves mixing all of the water and flour of a given formula and allowing it to rest for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.   Perhaps you're thinking of bassinage? See Anada's comments in this thread:  http://tinyurl.com/q7ctq7v

As a newbie baker, I think you'll be best served by visiting your library or a book store and getting a good book dedicated to the basics of bread baking which not only teaches technique, baker's percentages, desired dough temperature, etc., but explains the characteristics of various flours and how to handle them.  Hamelman's Bread, a Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes does just that.

And, as has been suggested at TFL time and time again, bake the same recipe over and over again (taking notes each time) until you reach consistent good results, watching the dough, not the clock.  And have fun doing it.