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Can we discuss "Autolyse" - I don't understand the concept

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yeah thats what i do, but according to the autolyse description it says you add the water to the flour and wait 15 minutes and then add the yeast?


In the classic autolyse as envisioned and practiced by Professor Calvel, the yeast was left out of the hydration process involving the flour and water because of the tendency of the yeast activity to acidify the dough. However, my recollection is that he came to acknowledge that it was OK to add a preferment and possibly even an instant dry yeast because of the delay in their activation. That is, they wouldn't start to really kick in until after the autolyse period was over. If the yeast is added after the autolyse, it can be added to the autolysed dough in the case of instant dry yeast, or if active dry yeast is used, it can be proofed in warm water and then added to the autolysed dough. I add the oil, if called for in the dough formulation, after the dough had been kneaded, so that the oil doesn't impede the hydration process. The salt goes in last. When using hand kneading, the salt is harder to work into the dough than if a machine is used, but if you work at it diligently it will incorporate also. You will wonder because the salt will cause surface tears and other irregularities in the dough before it is completely worked into the dough.


Autolyze means roughly to "destroy itself", in literal terms.  (auto, itself; and lysis, disintegrate or break down)

In the dough, the naturally occurring enzymes in the flour break down the starch into simpler sugars that the yeast can use.  Hydration, etc, is a secondary benefit of the autolyze phase, but often the actual goal especially when simpler sugars are actually added to the mixture, AFAICT.


The way I like to look at it is that the primary function of the autolyse is hydration, especially if only flour and water are combined, which is essentially the classical Calvel autolyse. During the autolyse, protease enzymes in the flour start to attack the gluten and soften it. Other enzymes (alpha amylase) also start to attack the damaged starch in the flour to produce simple sugars for use in feeding the yeast. However, I suspect that it takes longer than the autolyse period to produce meaningful amounts of sugar through that action. There is also around 1-2% usable sugar in the flour at the outset, and that sugar, as well as other sugars that are extracted from the flour through enzyme performance, or added externally, all become available as food for the yeast once the yeast is added to the autolysed dough.



   I seem to have fallen prey to semantics and the definition of autolysis and autolyse, etc, and thought I knew something I didn't.  :)  So, I did some more research to see what is involved because the actual science of bread is very interesting, IMHO.  I found a post on google groups at that I've copied below.  Kind of like a set of definitions from various places.  Lots of benefits I didn't realize.


From:  Janet Bostwick - view profile
Date:  Sat, Apr 24 2004 9:01 am 
Email:   "Janet Bostwick" <>

>  maybe you can explain the mechanism
> and the expected result of the "autolyse" process.
> DickA


"Artisan Baking Across America," by Maggie Glezer.
" The term "autolyse" (pronounced AUTO-lees and used as both a noun and verb) was adopted by Professor Raymond Calvel, the esteemed French bread-baking teacher and inventor of this somewhat odd but very effective technique.  During the rest time, the flour fully hydrates and its gluten further develops, encouraged by the absence of:  compressed yeast, which would begin to ferment and acidify the dough(although instant yeast is included in autolyses lasting no longer than 30 minutes ecause of its slow activation):  salt, which would cause the gluten to tighten, hindering its development and hydration; and pre-ferments, which would also acidify the dough.  The flour's improved hydration and gluten development shorten the mixing time, increase extensibilty (the dough rips less during shaping), and ultimately result in bread with a creamier colored crumb and more aroma and sweet wheat flavor.

At the end of the autolyse, the once-rough dough will have greatly smoothed out and become much more extensible.  Salt, compressed yeast, and pre-ferments are now added and the mixing is continued.  While it may seem strange to add salt directly to a dough, as long as it is finely granulated, it will quickly dissolve.  If you are hand kneading, you can actually feel the dough tighten and dry when the salt dissolves.

Here is the technical explanation of what's happening during autolyse:  The term "autolyse" means "self-destruction," referring to the proteolytic--or protein-attacking-enzymes during this hiatus.  While it might seem contradictory to want to dismember gluten when it is supposed to be developing, it is, in fact, one of mixing's primary steps.  When gluten first forms, it is jumbled together in an uneven manner.  During mixing, the gulten is pulled apart and rebonded into a stronger and more uniform network.  The autolyse facilitates that step without mechanically altering the dough.  The reason acid-producing ingredients like pre-ferments and compressed yeast are avoided is because these proteolytic enzymes work more effectively in a more neutral pH environment.

Finally, the bread's color and flavor are improved because the dough is mixed less, so that less air is beaten into it and, thus, less oxygen. Oxygen is believed to oxidize the flour's unsaturated fats and bleach its yellow pigments.  The fats are a source of vitamin E and an important source of flavor.  Oxidizing them destroys their vitamin E content and unpleasantly alters the flavor of the bread."

"The Baker's Companion," King Arthur Flour
"Most of the recipes in this chapter include a step called an autolyse, in which the flour, starter, and water are combined and allowed to rest for 20-30 minutes before the remaining ingredients are added and the dough is mixed.  This simple step prepares the dough for the mixing or kneading that follows.  When flour and water are first brought together, the gluten is disorganized and tangled, and it must be mechanically pulled apart by kneading before it can reassemble into organized long strands.  An autolyse gives naturally occurring enzymes the chance to untangle the gluten, so less mixing is necessary to develop the dough.  Salt and additional yeast, if used, are not added until after the autolyse, because they tighten the gluten--just the opposite of what an autolyse accomplishes.  An autolyse also increases the dough's extensibility, which is its ability to stretch without pulling back like a rubber band.  This makes the dough easier to shape and increases its ability to rise in the oven."

"The Bread Baker's apprentice,"  Peter Reinhart
"One of the techniques that bakers often use to minimize mixing (and thus to reduce oxidation that causes natural bleaching of the flour) is to mix the flour and water for only 4 minutes, enough time to hydrate the flour fully, and then let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  During this resting, or what the French call the autolyse, the protein molecules complete their hydration and begin bonding on their own.  Then, when the mixing resumes and the other ingredients are added, it takes only 2 to 4 additional minutes to complete the mixing process, during which the newly formed gluten molecules continue to bond to one another in more complex ways."



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