The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough unworkable after long warm autolysis?

pitom's picture
pitom

Dough unworkable after long warm autolysis?

I baked recently some Tartine style breads and easily went up to 86% hydration. i always autolysed the dough with levain for up to 1 hour. Two last bakes were with ~12 hour warm autolysis of water and flour alone. The first try was at 85% hydration. The dough was impossible to hold shape. bread was proofed in cloth lined bowl and it got wet after just a couple of hours in the fridge. Today I tried again with 80% hydration, the same mess, although bread tastes fantastic. I'll play with shorter times. I would appreciate what's your experience and what do you think happened with my dough.

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Part of the appeal of using an autolyse is because it increases the extensibility of dough. It does so in part by enzymatic activity that actually breaks down the gluten. Protease digests gluten, which weakens it to a degree making for a more extensible dough. The longer the autolyse sits, the greater this effect will be. 

Wet dough is already more extensible by nature. And while a one or two hour autolyse might still offer some benefits to the dough, 12 hours goes past of the point of diminishing returns and brings you right into the realm of deleterious effects. 

Things that increase enzymatic activity include hydration (the wetter the dough, the more enzymatic activity), warmth (the warmer the dough, the more enzymatic activity), and percentage of whole grains (the more whole grains, the more enzymatic activity). 

Using a very long autolyse -- especially with dough that is higher hydration, higher whole grain, or kept warmer -- can induce runaway enzymatic activity, and even a fair amount of spontaneous fermentation. This can degrade the gluten to the point of making the dough very difficult to work with, possibly even making it unworkable if proteolysis gets out of hand.

Cold temps and the addition of salt can help for a very long autolyse. Of course, if you add salt then it's not a true autolyse. But if you let it sit long enough, what you lose in degree of enzymatic activity you make up for in length. And then some. 

Personally, I tend to avoid using a very long autolyse for wet dough -- unless I take precautions like mentioned above. I just don't see the benefit. 

Cheers!

Trevor

Vince920's picture
Vince920

I thought I saw a recipe of yours, high hydration, with a 12-ish hour autolyse with salt (6h in fridge + overnight on room temp). Would you mind explaining that one?

Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

Those are the precautions that I mentioned I take when using a very long "autolyse". Cold+salt slows the enzymatic activity allowing for a safer rest period when letting the dough sit for a very long time. And it's important to make clear that hydration is not the same as dough consistency. A high hydration dough can still be fairly stiff depending upon the flour it's made from. I usually try to differentiate the terms (though I confess, I do mix them up on occasion). 

My guess is you're thinking of the 50/50 whole wheat recipe I made, which was 75% hydration. But since it was 50% whole grain it makes for a much stiffer dough consistency than had it been made with all white flour. Thus, it benefited from the extra extensibility developed from the long overnight rest (in my opinion). But I made sure to take the precautions of salt and cold to protect against excessive enzymatic activity. I hope that answers your question.

Cheers!

Trevor

Vince920's picture
Vince920

Seems to have answered everything I have in mind! I've finally concluded to steer away from such gimmicks as I tend to mess up a lot. lol

To conclude, for the OP, I'd suggest just sticking to a 1-hour autolyse like I always do. It seems to get the job done well as I've had no issues with shaping so far other than the 85% hydration bread I've tried.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Concur with Trevor on a long retarded autolyse.  Here are two examples of such

Neither of these are at high hydration, with both being in the low 70's range.  Although for baguettes, it will give you an idea of what can be done with a long cold retardation.  I've made them both and they are indeed fabulous!  

Vince920's picture
Vince920

Ciabatta is 85% hydration and it is barely shaped. Just left to rise and proofed on a flat surface to be baked on a flat surface, a flat-ish shape.

I tried making an 85% hydration loaf and I basically poured it onto a pan to proof because it's almost like batter.

No matter the autolyse, you can't expect 80+% hydration bread to be easy to form into shapes. It's simply too wet.

As for the bread sweating in the fridge, my 65% hydration dough is sitting on a steel bowl in the fridge as of the moment, and it's sweating so much that even the plate I'm covering it with has lots of water droplets. Very normal.

Drop your hydration to 70%-75% and it should be manageable. Unless ciabatta-like loaves are your cup of tea.

Vince920's picture
Vince920

I'm editing this as my internet made something and my post was duplicated.

Would you please provide some photos? It would be such great help.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

You might also check the ingredients on your flour bag. If there is added amylase (or malt, or barley malt), that will add to the enzyme activity and turn the mix to soup if you leave it that long at room temperature.

pitom's picture
pitom

Many thanks. I'll have to further experiment to pushing autolysis and keeping good hydration. I change flours and ratios all the time, so won't be easy, but this makes it fun :)

Vince920's picture
Vince920

Keep experimenting until you find what's just right for you!

Happy Baking!

pitom's picture
pitom

Another attempt with long autolysis: in the morning I prepared 100% hydration starter made half with whole rye and whole wheat. At the same time, mixed flours with water and salt at 80% hydration and plan to leave it for 10 hours. I hope the result will be better: this time I use cold water, dough will rest in room temp and I added salt so hopefully this slows down things. flour is 80% high extraction wheat and 20% malted AP

Vince920's picture
Vince920

Is that no-knead bread? Do-nothing bread? May I see the recipe?

I've always been wanting to try do-nothing bread, but never really had the opportunity.

Did you retard it in the fridge after proofing for a short amount of time? If so, please let me know how it went. I'm so desperate for such recipe.

pitom's picture
pitom

I have never baked no-knead bread I'm afraid.

I used typical Tartine style recipe with long autolysis without retarding the proof. 80% dough hydration and 100% levain hydration. 

What I'm looking for is something which will fit into a working day: very little work in the morning continuing in the afternoon and baking in the evening. So far I haven't been very happy with the results. Everything works great in the weekends when I can set levain and autolysis at the same time, combine both after 4 hours, add salt after another 30 mins and fold from time to time for the following 4 hours. This is not possible in the working day, where I have maximum of 5 hours for bulk fermentation, proofing and baking. I don't want to put dough for autolysis into the fridge , as bulk fermentation and proofing will take forever with cold dough. I will bake again tomorrow and will experiment this time with short bulk fermentation and proofing time but will increase % of levain.

My typical weekend build is 75 g levain and dough made with 500 g flour (10% whole) and 400-430 g water.

Tomorrow I plan to make 180 g levain which will ferment for 10 hours then add ~ 330g water and 440g flour (15% rye, 85% wheat). I'll report back what comes out.

Vince920's picture
Vince920

On Saturday, I made flatbread and cooked a small 1" loaf on a teflon pan. The recipe had 66.67% (2/3) hydration and 4% starter. I mixed it at 21:00 and shaped it the next day, 07:00. The small loaf, I left in the counter for 30 minutes then refrigerated for an additional 13 hours. The flatbread, I pre-shaped, rested for 1 hour, rolled out, rested for 5 minutes then cooked. Both turned out great!

Yesterday, 21:00, I mixed another batch of dough. Same ratios, 2/3 water, 4% starter, 2% salt. Just a while ago, 08:20, I shaped it into a boule, and now, it's proving on the counter for 2 hours. I think I've finally found a recipe that works for me.

pitom's picture
pitom

can you upload a photo?

Vince920's picture
Vince920

I almost forgot to take a picture of it! Luckily, half of the loaf was still intact.

I accidentally dropped my proofing bowl while transferring it into the pan, squishing the dough. So it turned out rather flat, but still delicious!

pitom's picture
pitom

 

I was home later than planned, so added a bit of yeast to speed it up. Bread looked nice to me, taste was just ok - not very good. I can taste distant sourness which is too much (overfermented levain?), but overall flavor very weak. Probably due to short bulk fermentation and proofing.

Build:

20g starter

80g cold H2O

80g Whole rye and high extraction wheat mix

Fermentation for 11 hours

Added 300 g 30C water, 370g wheat flour (mix of high extraction and AP), 70 g whole rye

After 30 mins added 10g water with a bit of yeast and 10 g salt

Bulk fermentation with folding every 30 mins for 2 hours

Bench rest 30 mins

Proofing 1.5 hours

Baking 40 mins

pitom's picture
pitom

It helped a little: the dough was more workable but it did not have any strength. I almost poured it into the Le Creuset where it rose surprisingly nicely. it baked well, had nice round holes, tasted great although the crumb was slightly rubbery. I will try again: increase salt and reduce levain. My aim is to fit it into a day schedule where I prepare everything in the morning, continue after work at 5 PM and bake at 10 PM at latest.