For those who are interested, the first time I became aware of the mass effect was in the 2004 SFBI article at http://www.sfbi.com/pdfs/NewsF04a.pdf#search=%22autolyse%20time%20period%22. The mass effect is discussed at page 5 of that article. However, I think the entire article bears reading. In my opinion, it does an excellent job of discussing the basics and fundamentals of dough making. It's the sort of article that I think all beginning pizza makers should read, but it is also a good refresher article for everyone else.
According the above-referenced article, cited by Peter:
"The quantity or 'mass' of dough that is allowed to ferment also plays a role in the strength of the dough. A larger piece of dough has the tendency to increase in strength faster compared to a smaller piece of dough. This is due to the fact that in larger masses of dough, all the chemical reactions happen faster
and a better environment is created with conditions more favorable for microorganism activity: temperature, availability of nutrients, etc. This is what we refer to in the baking industry as the mass effect
I would like to add the following article that may partially serve as a technical explanation for the phenomenon of "mass effect".
Factors that Affect the Chemical Reaction Rate
By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.
It's useful to be able to predict whether an action will affect the rate at which a chemical reaction proceeds. There are several factors that can influence the rate of a chemical reaction. In general, a factor that increases the number of collisions between particles will increase the reaction rate
and a factor that decreases the number of collisions between particles will decrease the chemical reaction rate.A higher concentration of reactants leads to more effective collisions per unit time, which leads to an increasing reaction rate
(except for zero order reactions). Similarly, a higher concentration of products tends to be associated with a lower reaction rate. Use the partial pressure of reactants in a gaseous state as a measure of their concentration.Temperature
Usually, an increase in temperature is accompanied by an increase in the reaction rate. Temperature is a measure of the kinetic energy of a system, so higher temperature implies higher average kinetic energy of molecules and more collisions per unit time
. A general rule of thumb for most (not all) chemical reactions is that the rate at which the reaction proceeds will approximately double for each 10°C increase in temperature. Once the temperature reaches a certain point, some of the chemical species may be altered (e.g., denaturing of proteins) and the chemical reaction will slow or stop.Medium
The rate of a chemical reaction depends on the medium in which the reaction occurs. It may make a difference whether a medium is aqueous or organic; polar or nonpolar; or liquid, solid, or gaseous.Presence of Catalysts and Competitors
Catalysts (e.g., enzymes) lower the activation energy of a chemical reaction and increase the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed in the process. Catalysts work by increasing the frequency of collisions between reactants
, altering the orientation of reactants so that more collisions are effective, reducing intramolecular bonding within reactant molecules, or donating electron density to the reactants. The presence of a catalyst helps a reaction to proceed more quickly to equilibrium.
Aside from catalysts, other chemical species can affect a reaction. The quantity of hydrogen ions (the pH of aqueous solutions) can alter a reaction rate. Other chemical species may compete for a reactant or alter orientation, bonding, electron density, etc., thereby decreasing the rate of a reaction.