Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Using Autolysis

In the evening, I measured the ingredients: 

400g strong white bread flour
270ml water (more than usual)
100ml sourdough starter 

I am not using salt at the moment but you could add a pinch if required.

I mixed the water and sourdough starter in the measuring jug and then added it to the flour in the mixing bowl. 
Then I gently mixed them together until there was little lose flour and no liquid. 

I covered it with a tea towel and left it to autolise for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes the autolisys has done it's trick and the dough felt springy.

You could at this point use stretch and fold to knead the dough, but as it was quite wet and I wanted to keep the hydration high so I gave it 5 minutes in the mixing machine with the dough hook at its slowest speed.


After five minutes, the dough had formed a nuce gluten structure as predicted.

I covered it with a tea towel and left it to prove overnight in the kitchen.

The following morning the dough had incrreased in size about three fold.

I scraped it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knocked it back.

Then using stretch and fold I worked it into a sausage shape.

Dropped it into the Lekue, closed it, covered it with a tea towel and left it to rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until it had doubled in size.

I then put it in a cold oven and baked it at 200C for 25 minutes.
I then took it out of the Lekue and baked it for another 20 minutes.

Then took it out of the oven to cool.

Once cooled and cut it had a nice crisp crust and a beautiful soft open crumb.

These early results would suggest that using a period of autolysis improves the quality of the bread, just as Calvel predicted.

I used more water and a higher baking temperature than usual in this test and I intend to try some different variations, but I think this is even better that my previous best sourdough method.

Monday, 13 July 2020


This is my latest line of research and is an alternative to the sponge method. It was originally developed by French bread expert, Raymond Calvel. Autolysis is the process whereby enzymes change the nature of the substance they are part of. His autolyze (pronounced auto-lese) method begins with a gentle mixing of all the flour and water in the recipe, followed by a rest period of 20 to 60 minutes. After the rest, the remaining ingredients are added, and kneading can begin. 

This pause allows the bread dough to become fully hydrated early in the process (flour takes much longer than you may think to fully absorb all its water) and the enzymes start to break down the proteins in the flour and turn the flour’s starches into sugars (which are what the sourdough starter feeds on once it is added to the dough). This means the dough becomes more stretchy and easier to knead and means the sourdough starter can get to work faster and easier.

Some bakers stick strictly to Calvel’s method, some vary the autolyze time up to several hours, some include the starter and even salt in the autolyze. I am currently experimented with the various options on the autolyze, but the one that seems to work best so far is as follows:

Gently mix all the ingredients (including starter and salt if used), cover and leave to autolyse for 30 minutes.

Do a short knead until the dough has developed a nice gluten structure (about 5 minutes). Then cover and leave overnight in a cool place.

In the morning, knock the dough back, shape it, put it in a banneton or bread tin, cover and leave to prove in a warm place for around three hours, until it has doubled in size.

Then bake as usual. So far it has worked out well and the results are excellent.