Autolyse – Baking Guide and How To

What does Autolyse mean?

Autolyse is a simple method used in bread baking. It’s a term used to describe a rest period, of 20-60 minutes, after flour and water has been mixed together.

Why do bakers Autolyse?

There’s a few reasons why bakers choose to use the autolyse method.

  • The mix is easier to work with.
  • Shaping and working becomes easier.
  • Flavour can be developed.

The origins of Autolyse

In 1974 a French professor name Prof. Raymond Calvel became unhappy with French bread making. Calvel believed that the birth of the two-speed mixer and the intensity at which it mixed dough, was eroding common bread making standards. As the mixer grew in popularity, the professor sought and invented the method as a response.

The intensive mixing of dough, especially with a mixer, causes rapid fermentation. Long fermentation is vital for developing flavour in our chosen breads. Fast fermentation can lack flavour.

How does Autolyse work?

During autolyse flour becomes fully hydrated. This triggers chemicals in the flour to stimulate proteins and thus improve gluten. Furthermore, compounds agitate starch and break it down into sugars that feed the yeast. This process can also occur during working of the mix, however the dough is at risk of becoming over-oxidised. It’s this over oxidation that leads to a reduction of flavour and general quality. Autolyse done preceding a proof, reduces the time needed to work the dough. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of too much oxidation.

Is yeast involved?

In short, no. Yeast would inhibit the process and is not involved. Autolyse only requires a blend of flour and water. Yeast should be added after the process has occurred. To add yeast would be counter-productive and reinforce the mixture.

How long does Autolyse take?

The process can take 15 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the patience of the baker and the level of flavour required.

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