” In bread baking, the term (or, more commonly, its French cognate autolyse) is described as the hydration rest following initial mixing of flour and water, before other ingredients (such as salt and yeast) are added to the dough. The term was coined by French baking professor Raymond Calvel, who recommended the procedure as a means of reducing kneading time, thereby improving the flavor and color of bread. Long kneading times subject bread dough to atmospheric oxygen, which bleaches the naturally occurring carotenoids in bread flour, robbing the flour of its natural creamy color and flavor. Autolyse also makes the dough easier to shape and improves structure. “-Wikipedia.
I tried this “autolyse’ method. I wanted dough that’s easier to work and shape with. It’s also supposed to give a better rise, texture and flavour to the loaf, and anything that does this deserves a try! Just combine the flour and water in a bowl and mix until no dry flour remains. Do not knead. I covered the bowl with a plastic bag and left the dough alone to ‘autolyse’ for 40 mins. At this stage, gluten development begins and simple sugars start to form as starch is broken down.
The Autolyse Method, adapted from “A Bread A day“.
Recipe: (Makes 1 big loaf)
4 cups unbleached bread flour (540g)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups warm filtered water (354 ml)
1 teaspoon sea salt
– I added in 20 gm melted butter and 1 tsp maple syrup.
Mix the warm water with the yeast and a teaspoon of maple syrup, and let this stand till foamy.
Place the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer ( setting aside about 20 g flour for use later during the brief machine kneading) , and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix thouroughly till there’s no dry flour. Let this “autolyse” for 40 mins. Note: This is not strictly, the autolyse method where only flour and water are used. ” A Bread a Day ” uses this water, yeast and flour combination for autolyse.
After 40 mins, add in the salt and mix again for a 6 to 8 mins. using the Kitchen Aid, adjusting the amount of flour ( from the 20g reserve ) if needed, to form a smooth, cohesive, elastic dough ball. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to a floured mat and and fold a few times, and then form the dough into a round ball with a skin stretching over the outside. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, the smooth side up. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and deflate the dough. Flatten the dough into a rectangle or oval shape. Fold the two corners furthest away from you into the center of the dough as shown. Then fold the top end into the center. Do the same for the bottom half. Tuck the center seam in to form a log, and roll the dough up into a cylinder, pressing gently to seal the edges as you roll. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Tuck the ends under if desired, to make a more attractive loaf. Cover loosely with a towel wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 240˚C, placing an oven-safe shallow metal pan inside the oven. If you have a baking stone, heat it with the oven.
I find that the dough is soft, elastic and easy to handle. No messy wet goo to work with. But then, it’s only 65% hydration. If the edges won’t stick, wet with a little water and press down again.
When fully risen in about an hour, use a sharp serrated knife or clean razor blade, make evenly spaced slashes on the top of the loaf at a 45º angle. Transfer the bread to the oven (or baking stone, if using one). Immediately pour 1/3 cup of boiling water on the shallow metal tray for steam. Bake at 220˚C for 30 minutes, till golden brown.
Note how the razor blade is utilised using a disposable plastic drink stirrer, which you get from buying drinks outside. I cut off the spoon bit, and position this into the holes provided in the razor blade.
Remove the bread to a metal rack to cool when it has turned golden brown.
“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.”
― Ludwig van Beethoven