Those of you who like to bake without thinking about what’s behind it… might want to skip this post….
This is a follow up experiment to the post Experiments with Autolyse #1 (length of autolyse)
To autolyse means to give your dough a rest period after mixing and before adding the salt to the dough. Professor Raymond Calvel pioneered this dough development stage which helped produce superior bread. When the flour and water are combined, the gluten strands are hydrated and begin to bond. Enzymes are activated and they begin their work on the dough. One of the enzymes called Protease when activated, starts to break down or digest the gluten strands. You might think this would ruin your gluten network that you are trying to build up, but used properly on the right kind of dough using the right flour, you can direct the outcome of the bread in different ways.
With an autolyse period you are hoping to obtain a loaf with a more open crumb, a higher oven spring and superior flavor. The ease at which the dough is handled is also affected.
When salt is added, it inhibits the action of the enzymes, yeast and bacteria. So controlling when you add the salt can give you an additional tool in controlling the outcome. The reason behind these experiments is to explore some of those outcomes. Gluten is made up of two main protein strands. One is called Gliadin and the other is called Glutenin. The Gliadin is responsible for the extensibility of the dough or it’s ability to stretch. The Glutenin is mainly responsible for the elasticity of the dough or the ability of the dough to bounce back after being stretched. Flour with a predominance of Gliadin can be very droopy/weak. While flour with a predominance of Glutenin can be like a rubber ball. In either case, you would have poor quality bread. An extended autolyse period is not used for a weak flour or a flour high in whole meal or whole grain.
If an autolyse period is used in those instances, it is usually kept short so as not to overly weaken the gluten structure which is already compromised in such dough. Although a short autolyse can be helpful to hydrate the gluten strands and to align the strands up and avoid over mixing. If you followed the first post on my Autolyse experiments then you know that I autolysed using dough with added levain (sourdough starter) added at the beginning of the mix.
To be seriously technical, a super duper correct autolyse would utilize only water and flour mixed together, the other ingredients are supposed to be added later ( a mature levain has acids, yeast and enzymes which can interfere with the autolyse supposedly) I have never done that kind ( super duper correct) of autolyse because the levain is such an essential part of the dough that it is difficult to leave it out until after the autolyse period. However, even Professor Calvel who pioneered the autolye for bread making, allows adding levain to the original dough if the levain is very wet or an indispensible portion of the dough. Let’s face it, with some dough, if you leave out the levain you are dealing with a pile of hardtack like crumbs and you cannot autolyse that. Leaving out the leavain poses some interesting questions and challenges.
For instance, if you leave out the levain for an autolyse and the dough ends up very low in hydration, you will also be working with the double hydration effect. That is a neat trick used in dough development to help bond the gluten strands tightly before adding the additional liquid to bring it up to proper hydration levels. I use that often because it works well and gives you a great gluten network, especially for bread in which the final loaf is a high hydration bread. In the first experiment we found out that the bread which had levain added at the beginning of the mix and and extended autolyse period of two hours actually and surprisingly produced a superior loaf compared to a loaf where a short autolyse period was used or no autolyse at all.
That caused many of you to email me or comment on trying an autolyse using a dough with no added levain compared to one with an added levain. That is what this experiment is about. To make the two doughs I had to do a jig. I needed both doughs to be at the same hydration so we did not also have a double hydration variable. So I made a formula for one dough using no levain (only flour and water) at 60% before adding the levain and salt and 66% after autolyse and the additon of the levain and salt. In the other dough I added the levain into the first stage and also had it at 60% hydration before autolyse, then added flour and water to bring it to 66% after autolyse. I autolysed both doughs for two hours at room temperature around 68F degrees. I wanted these doughs to be at a similar hydration to the dough experimented on in Experiments with Autolyse # 1 (which was at 66% hydration). These are 2 lb/907g loaves.
Dough #1 with levain (starter) before autolyse
- 6 oz/170g water
- 12.4 oz/351g bread flour
- 7.4 oz/209g very vigorous starter (fed within six hours)@ 100% hydration
Mix together and autolyse for 2 hours, covered at room temperature. Fold dough twice during this time.
1 lb 9.8 oz dough @ 60.2 % hydration
- 3.3 oz/93g water (make sure to stir the salt into the water to dissolve)
- 3.6 oz/102g flour
- .4 0z/11g salt
This will yield 2 lbs 1.1 oz/938g of dough @ 66% hydration
Dough #2 without levain (starter)before autolyse
- 9.3 oz/263g water
- 15.5 oz439g/ bread flour
Mix together and autolyse for two hours folding twice.
1 lb 8.8 oz/703g dough @ 60% hydration
After autolyse add:(make sure you stir the salt into the starter to dissolve)
- 7.4 oz/209g very vigorous starter @ 100% hydration
- .5 oz/14g bread flour
- .4 oz/11g salt
This will yield 2 lbs 1.1 oz/ 938g dough @ 66% hydration
After the autolyse period, in both cases, you will have to knead the ingredients into the dough with gentleness. The slurry will not want to incorporate right away. Just do the best you can and during subsequent folding, the dough will come together.
After two hours autolysis and two folds, the dough with the levain (dough #1) was more stretchy and slightly sticky, with some bubbles. Dough #1 without any levain, was tough, tight, hard to fold and of course had no gas bubbles.
Right after incorporating the second part of the formula (slurry with salt), the dough is not yet well incorporated. The gluten strands are visible. It is difficult to incorporate the slurry, but just let the dough rest, time and subsequent folding with do the job for you:
Even while incorporating the slurry and salt, I found that dough # 2 was tougher and more difficult to work with. That is the dough on the right which did not start out with added levain. The gluten strands were tight and well bonded on it.
After this point, I folded the doughs once each hour and noted how they were doing. After two hours more and two folds the doughs looked like this:
After an additional two hours (6 hours total since initial mixing and flour hours after autolyse) the dough looked like this:
All along, dough # 1 had more bubbles, which increased over time and was stretchy and easy to handle, although slightly more sticky. Dough # 2 was tougher, resisted handling and had less gas activity and fewer bubbles. Dough # 1 was really 2 hours ahead in fermentation time.
At this point, I covered the both doughs and refrigerated overnight. Next morning, I used my new Brod and Taylor proofer to warm the dough up. This was the first time using the proofer and I was interested to see how well it performed.
The proofer was barely large enough to hold both bowls of dough, but I got them in. I had the proofer set at 76 F degrees. It took three hours to warm up the dough and mature enough to shape. I took the dough out of the refrigerator at 6:00 am and shaped the loaves at 9:00 am. Then I wanted to proof them at 76F degrees but found out the proofer could not fit two 9″ round bannetons. So I stacked them up:
The heat source is from the bottom and I had a small tray of water for humidity. Because it is warmer at the bottom, it is s good idea to change the loaves position once in a while. The proofer preformed very well and kept the temperature pretty even. This proofer will be very handy with some of my “sour” experiments where temperature is critical.
I knew that loaf # 1 would be ready to bake first so I did not worry about staggering them timewise.
Loaf one was ready to bake in three hours, even with the warming proofer ( slowing the dough down in the refrigerator but not shaping until after it warms up next day, slows the dough down quite a bit. I took both loaves out to take a picture of them at this point (you can see how much more fermentation dough # 1 has accomplished):
Dough # 1 looked ready to bake, but the dough was sticky, so it was hard to tell (when I pushed my finger into the dough it pretty much stuck). I baked it but it needed another 1/2 hour or so of proofing as the crust cracked all around.
Baking was accomplished in a preheated oven at 450F degrees. I used a baking stone and a roasting lid to cover the loaves which were slashed and sprayed once with water. The roasting lid cover was removed after 21 minutes in the oven. I then proceeded to brown the loaf for 11 minutes longer at the same temperature and I turned the loaf once for even browning. My baking stone is a 3/4″ Fibrament ( which I love). I preheat for a good hour or more if the loaves are lazy. I preheat the roasting pan lid for about five minutes before putting in the loaf.
It sure popped in the oven though:
Dough # 2 was a sluggard. I waited for three more hours and baked at 3:00 pm! It still looked underproofed so I made the mistake of slashing slightly deeper than I should have:
This is a good time to mention that the first loaf was baked 3 hours after beginning proof and the second loaf took 6 hours! So when you see in a formula that the loaf can take 1 – 3 hours or so, well, it means just that, it really can take a long time depending upon lots of variables. I should have waited 3.5 to 4 hours for each loaf instead of the 3 hours I allowed. Loaf # 1 was a higher loaf and loaf # 2 was lower, but larger in diameter. That was because of slashing dough # 2 too deeply. I think they both would have been the same size if I had not slashed too deeply on the second loaf.
You can see that loaf # 1 had a more open crumb. It also had a nicer crust with a spray of blisters. The crumb feel was nice on both loaves, velvety soft, yet chewy. They were both nice loaves. I would never hesitate to add the levain in before autolysing again. I have done it that way all along and I am used to it anyway. So I would have to state that according to the outcome of this experiment and my past experience, I prefer to add the levain before autolyse. The outcome to me, is just what I am shooting for anyway, easier to mix up, easier dough handling, less fermentation time, great oven spring, nicely blistered crust, open velvety soft crumb… gee what more could you ask for????
Edited to add: Jump starting the autolyse with a vigorous levain seems like the desired thing to do. You are bringing in the very thing you want right from the beginning, plenty of Protease and enzyme activity, wild yeast and gluten that is already predigested. Make sure your starter is freshly fed within 6-8 hours and very vigorous.
With a long autolyse without the levain, the dough never did seem to catch up fermentationwise to the first loaf. The dough was harder to handle throughout the experiment and the crust and crumb seemed to suffer in quality. However, this was just one experiment, it should be repeated to see if results are similar.
I can see a use for withholding levain or yeast in a dough. If you have a weak flour that is giving you trouble, I think using this formula with the double hydration and adding levain later in the mixing, could possibly strengthen the dough. Also if you have a reason to seriously slow down your dough (maybe experimenting with the sour) this would also work.
There is one more thing I have not mentioned yet and that is this two hour autolysed bread has a noticeably stronger, very wonderful wheaty aroma. It was noticeable to everyone. You wanted to stick your nose in the loaf and breath deeply, especially the next morning. Imagine finding your family with their noses stuck in the bread in the a.m…. where is my cup of coffee anyway?
Have fun baking, you know I do…..