I know, this term sounds like a blast, real complicated procedure we need to perform on the dough, the truth is that autolyse [awe-toh-lees] can’t be farther from that assumption.
Autolyse is a term we use for just letting the dough rest after we water and flour mixed, keeping the dough still letting nature do its thing, that’s correct it’s that simple, nothing more to it, but there is chemistry and logic behind this perception.
How does autolyse performed?
It is simply done by stopping the dough kneading (mixer or hand) and letting the dough rest for 20-30 minutes, only water and flour, before the yeast and the rest of the ingredients are going into the bowl. during this period the dough is getting its time to form and shape up or if you want the technical term, we allow the gluten molecules to form a more stable and organized formation.
The logic behind autolyse
If you think about it for a minute, what do we try to achieve by kneading the dough? we try to incorporate all ingredients, wake up the gluten molecules, it will be more accurate to say that we try to form or make the connections between the molecules to form gluten molecules, and finally oxidize the dough (which is a side effect).
But wait, one may ask, aren’t we doing the exact same thing by placing the dough ingredients in the mixer and kneading the hell out of it? the longer the better? not at all. over oxidizing the dough will create a dry and crumbly bread, and breaking the flour molecules sensationally will cause the bread to absorb more water with a more fragile and unstable structure.
This is exactly why the Autolyse is such a genius method, it allows the dough to get the same benefits of gluten forming and oxygen development in a more stable and controlled environment.
Do you really think the village baker kneaded the dough for 10-20 minutes as we see today in many recipes? absolutely not, he let the dough rest and get more stable with Autolyse, flour starch would be developed into sugars and the proteins molecules form the into gluten.
Autolyse as known today was first introduced by Raymond Calvel the author of the book Le goût du pain, he refined this old method and brought it to a large audience.
By using the Autolyse method you will achieve a much richer flavor of your bread, this is not something small, it will be recognized by most people, I can say that the bread loaves I made with Autolyse deeper flavor, less flat than the regular breads, this is achieved with only 30 minutes break, absolutely amazing.