The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How long is too long for the Autolyse stage?

sjm1027's picture
sjm1027

How long is too long for the Autolyse stage?

The last SD bread I baked I did an overnight autolyse. The dough was very easy to work with and I had the best window pane I have ever had with little work. But once I completed a 16-hour retard at 38˚ and released the dough from the banneton it didn't hold it's shape. I did do a 4 series of S&F 30 min apart. The hydration was approx. 72%. I was wondering if a 12 hour autolyse was too much or does it really matter with just water and dough. BTW I used 400g BF and 100g WW.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

A group of us participated in a Community Bake featuring Trevor Wilson’s Champlain SD. His instructions included a very long autolyse, actually a premix. We all found that the extended autolyse made the dough extremely extensible, but the dough lost way too much strength. We elected to shorten the duration. 

Danny

sjm1027's picture
sjm1027

Thanks for the reply. Yes, that's what I found with my dough. Almost looked like a cartoon when it came out of the banneton. What was the conclusion for the proper time to get a good window but not weaken the structure?

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

IMO, 30-60 minutes is long enough. But I’m sure others have different opinions. 

Now I’ll get a little sacrilegious. I often lightly mix flour, water, levain, and often salt. Then let the dough rest 30 minutes or so before fully incorporating and finishing up wth slap and folds. This process works well for me. 

A small rest makes a big difference. Rest often and let the dough work for you. 

Dan

sjm1027's picture
sjm1027

thanks, I will do a couple of tests to see what works for me. I typically feed my starter and start Autolyse at the same time. Once the starter is ready I add it and salt to dough. I’ll play with different times in 30 minute increments. 

Martin Crossley's picture
Martin Crossley

Have a look at the Experiments with Autolyse post on here a few years back; I found that very interesting.

I also found this article What is Gluten very, very helpful to understand what is really going on in an autolyse. That caused me to change my autolyse technique slightly and give it a bit of a knead halfway through, to make the resulting gluten structure a bit more extensible (that works, by the way).

My conclusion is that a 'pure' autolyse (no yeast present) is essentially a chemical process rather than a biological one; and is therefore a matter of time vs. temperature. Personally I use somewhat hot water to accelerate my autolyse; and I allow it to run for about half an hour until I stop the process by adding the salt. If I autolyse cold, I run it for about an hour. I also find that a wholewheat dough can handle a somewhat longer autolyse.

As I mentioned above, I also give my autolyse a brief knead half way through - that really does improve the structure of the final dough.

Finally, based on the 'what is gluten' article I noted a stronger and more extensible gluten structure develops in a lower hydration environment. Therefore these day I autolyse at a pretty low hydration of 60%, and then I correct to my desired final dough hydration (75%) by mixing in a sufficient quantity of fully hydrated starter. That's quite messy to do, but it gives you really strong gluten.

sjm1027's picture
sjm1027

Thanks for the articles. Looks like some interesting reading.