Autolyse (aka Autolyze)
Pronounced ‘Auto-lees‘, this is a simple process of mixing the water with the flour and leaving to rest for a period of time. Strictly speaking a traditional autolyse is just flour and water.
It has a number of benefits which can make it worth the extra step, but is not always necessary as you can see from the other methods. It is particulary helpful with higher hydration loaves.
Why it’s important
Flour can take longer than you’d expect to become fully hydrated, this can depend on the type of flour. Finer and whiter flours absorb flour much quicker than coarser flours such as whole wheat or rye.
When dough becomes hydrated, natural enzymes in the flour become activated. There are two main enzymes and they both do different things:
Protease enzymes start to break down proteins in the flour. This is what helps the dough become more stretchy/extensible, at the same time amylase enzymes break starch down into simple sugars. These sugars will feed your Sourdough Starter at later stage in the process. So you are basically preparing the food source for your Sourdough Starter, which when added, can get to work faster and easier.
The autolysis process has other benefits for dough:
- It becomes softer, more pliable and easier to work
- It holds its shape a lot better when handling, and after shaping
- Scoring will be easier
- It produces a loaf with better texture, rise and flavour.
- Put water in a big bowl, gently combine the flour and water until it is just holding together in a rough, shaggy lump
- Cover well, and leave to rest for 30 minutes up to 4hrs (whole grain flours benefit from a longer time to softer the sharp bran flakes which can damage the gluten strands)
30mins – 4hrs
Bowl, shower cap, or other cover
Flour, non-chlorinated water