The Autolyse Method
I’ve been doing a lot of bread baking lately and in the process reading a lot about bread baking and various techniques. Last week I learned about this technique for greatly improving the flavor and texture for your bread. It is called the autolyse method. Sounds complicated right? The good news is that the autolyse method is possibly the most simple thing you can do in bread making! The method literally just involves mixing only the flour and water together and letting it sit for about 20-30 minutes before any of the other ingredients are added.
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.