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Autolyse (Dough Technique)

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What Is Autolyse in Dough Making

Autolyse is a dough technique that originates from the world of bread making. It involves mixing water and flour only and allowing them to sit for at least 20 minutes before kneading. The main goal of autolyse is to maximize water absorption before kneading, resulting in faster gluten development and shorter kneading time. By excluding components such as salt, sugar, or yeast (which draw water from the flour), the flour is able to fully absorb the water prior to dough mixing.

It is important to note that the primary purpose of autolyse is not to develop gluten, but to allow the flour to fully absorb the water (although some gluten development may occur during autolyse depending on the intensity of the flour and water mixing process)

Originally, the word “autolyse” refers to a biological concept that describes a process (‘autolysis’) in which a living cell breaks itself down (“self-digestion”). In the context of dough making, we are referring to the natural enzymes found in flour (amylase and protease) that break down the flour during the autolyse (and fermentation) process.

The main purpose of using an autolyse is to reduce the kneading time of the dough. This helps prevent the dough from heating up too much or undergoing excessive oxidation during prolonged kneading.

How does an autolyse help with this? In order to form gluten, the gluten-forming proteins in flour, glutenin and gliadin, need to absorb water. By performing an autolyse before kneading, the flour fully absorbs the water, which allows for faster gluten development during kneading compared to situations where the flour absorbs water during kneading.

Another effect of autolyse is related to the enzymatic activity in flour. When water is added, the enzymes in the flour, specifically the amylase and protease enzymes, become active. The amylase enzymes break down starch into sugars, while the protease enzymes break down the gluten-forming proteins.

In terms of amylase enzymes, autolyse may provide the yeast with slightly more available food at the beginning of the fermentation process; However, the amount of sugars formed during autolyse is usually negligible and does not have a significant impact on fermentation. As for protease enzymes, the longer the autolyse, the more proteins will be broken down, resulting in a more extensible dough.

It is important to note that recently, the term “autolyse” has become a general term that refers to any stage in which the dough rests (for example, between folds). However, using the term “autolyse” in this case is inaccurate; Autolyse is only performed before the beginning of kneading, without the presence of salt, yeast, and other dough ingredients, and serves a specific purpose (reducing kneading time). Any other rest time the dough goes through is simply referred to as “resting” or fermentation periods.

How to Do an Autolyse

Doing an autolyse is a very simple process. Start by combining all the water and flour needed for the recipe in the bowl that will be used for kneading. Make sure to thoroughly mix everything, ensuring there is no dry flour left. Cover the resulting dough and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Once the autolyse period is over, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and proceed with the kneading process as usual.

Is Autolyse Necessary When Making Pizza Dough?

In general, there is no real need to use an autolyse for pizza dough. However, if you want to reduce the kneading time, an autolyse can be helpful. It is important to note that unless a long autolyse lasting several hours is performed, which will make the dough more extensible – an autolyse will not have any effect on the final product.