The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Some questions about "autolyse"

gerryp123's picture

Some questions about "autolyse"

A recent posting motivated me to look into the "autolyse" method in bread baking.  Seems that all I need to do is pre-mix my flour water and yeast (?) for about a minute and then let it sit for about 20 minutes before continuing with my recipe, as usual. 

Worth the small effort?  Are the benefits (improved flavor and texture) noticeable?

When best to add in the yeast -  before or after the autolyse?  When to add the salt?

Can be used with any recipe?

Any reduction in kneading time because of this pre-kneading gluten development?

Any downside to this method  (besides the extra 20 minutes of waiting) ?

gillpugh's picture

Not that I'm an expert, but I've deffinetly seen a benefit in the dough in only 30 mins of autolyse.  Less shaggy,  less kneeding  time required than at no autolyse.  

I too would love to know if there is a sweet spot to autolise time 

macette's picture

The first time I tried it I rested the dough 30 mins...nice looking loaf but a bit smaller than usual. The dough was nice less kneading . Today I just rested it 10 mins. And dough was nice and less kneading, today’s loaf rose more and lovely crust. Waiting to see if we get an answer about sweet spot loafs were Just sandwich....

alfanso's picture

The autolyse process is generally accredited to a Msr. Calvel, who wrote The Taste of Bread.  Autolyse is "officially" just flour and water, although I've seen where folks will add the salt and/or the yeast/levain as well.  The language that we use in baking is relatively fluid with a few different takes on what this or that means to the baker.

The typical autolyse is from ~20-60 minutes.  A few weeks ago I made a bread where I started with the autolyse (F&W only!) and then remembered that I had to get lost for a few hours.  I left it on the counter for several hours, perhaps 3 or 4. It didn't seem to make much difference to the dough or the bread.

The Baguettes a l'Ancienne Gosselin, posted by "DonD" in April of 2010 on TFL, call for an overnight autolyse with ice water.  

I believe that Trevor Wilson performs some of his autolyses (autolysis/autolysi?) by combining both refrigeration and counter top rest overnight.

And I'll posit that there are folks, professional as well as the rest of us goons, who are all over the map WRT how long to autolyse.  I'll guess that professional bakers, by and large, stick to a short autolyse time due the the constraints of their trade being based on a tight daily schedule.

Well, that settles that.  I hope this clarifies the muddy waters a little bit!


leslieruf's picture

if you add yeast (or levain) then you are already starting your fermentation. Salt is usually added later.  the purpose of  the autolyse is to start the gluten formation before you add yeast etc. It makes quite a difference.


gillpugh's picture

Leslie  - do you know how long to leave the water/flour mix for best results?  is there an optimum time ?

gerryp123's picture

In what way do you see autolyse "make quite a difference"?

Make sense to use this in all yeast bread recipes?

Any downside?

leslieruf's picture

others an hour or so. Trevor J Wilson does an overnight autolyse.  Others maybe are more precise, but go with what fits for you then adjust your timing to find your ideal.  

so basic process is

mix flours and water leave however long you choose

add levain and salt etc mix (less required to develop the gluten as it is already well on its way)

continue with s&f etc...

hope this helps


AndyPanda's picture

I was wondering the same thing and saw this blog at King Arthur where they tested different lengths of time and yeast during/after etc. I'm not sure how valid the results (differences could have been handling etc.) but they compare loaves with 30 minutes autolyse to 60 minutes etc.

I generally do 30-60 minutes - just however long it takes me to remember that I have dough waiting for me to start kneading. I usually put the yeast (or starter) in for the autolyse ... mainly because my kitchen is cold this time of year (in the summer I may wait and add it after) ... but I usually put the salt in later. But it seems to work just as well either way for me - I don't notice any big difference in finished product between 20 minutes and two hours autolyse time.

Bread1965's picture

The way I understand it, the whole point of letting your flour and water rest prior to adding salt and yeast or levain is to hydrate the flour. The water is more fully absorbed into the flour if given enough time to do so without the salt and levain beginning their roles in the development of your dough. What I notice is that doing this increases the extensibility of the dough as a result. Not hugely, but enough that I notice. I don't find 30 minutes enough and at a minimum now I would do this for at least an hour and try to go as long as two if I have the time. That's the first way to approach this.

The second comes from Trever J Wilson as Leslie mentions. He mixes the flour, water and salt the night before he wants to prepare the dough. He uses very warm water in the process. Gives it all a shaggy mix and then lets it sit out on the counter for a few hours before bed. Then into the fridge for over night to slow down any unwanted enzymatic activity that could develop. In the morning you'll find the mixture is very supple and extensible - especially as it returns to room temperature. Overnight you'll start to get gluten to form (if I'm thinking this through properly) and you then add the levain and begin your bulk fermentation process of mixing/folding or whatever you're trying to accomplish with your dough/bake. I have yet to achieve his open crumb, but the dough feel doing it this way is remarkably nice.

Hope that helps..