The autolyse method is a simple step that can be added into the bread baking process to improve the texture and quality of the bread. The process involves hydrating the flour and allowing it to sit for at least 20 minutes before the final mixing of the dough.
I have baked many loaves of bread in my day. Many with utilizing simple techniques like the straight dough method, and others using more complicated techniques like making sourdough bread.
With everything I have learned about bread baking, the autolyse method has been by far my favorite technique I’ve learned. It sounds complicated right? But the good news is that this process is possibly one of the most simple things you can do in bread making!
An autolyse literally involves mixing only the flour and water together and letting it rest before any of the other ingredients are added. The length of time that the flour/water mixture rests can vary, but typically it is at least 20 minutes and up to several hours.
Why this Method?
The origin of the word “autolyse” means splitting. The purpose of autolysis is to jump start the formation of the gluten strands. Once the flour and water mixes the enzymes in the flour start breaking down the starch and the protein in the flour. This converts the starch to sugar and the proteins begin reforming into gluten strands.
Yes, sure, all of this happens in the traditional method of mixing and kneading all of the ingredients together, but the more the dough is kneaded the more oxidized it gets. And over oxidized dough can have a reduction in flavor, color, and texture. The autolysis process allows the gluten strands to begin forming on their own which in turn also results in gluten formation that is more orderly. This means dough that is so much easier to handle and work with when shaping. The final product will look nicer, taste better, have a better texture, and keep longer!
To use the autolyse method:
In any bread recipe, mix together only the water and the flour and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before adding in any of the other ingredients. You will likely need to reduce your kneading time when doing this because the dough will not require as much kneading after autolyzed.