When flour is hydrated with water and let soak for a brief time before additional ingredients are added, the process is known as autolyse. Prior to kneading, this autolyse pizza dough begins the production of gluten and breaks down starches into sugars that are available for the yeast. Your kneading time may be reduced, and the dough you make will be simpler to shape and have more volume, better texture, taste, and color.
World renowned French chemist and bread maker, Raymond Calvel, created a chemical method called autolyse, which uses certain naturally occurring enzymes in wheat to break down proteins into smaller pieces. As a consequence, the protein structure is shorter and less ‘tangled’. This speeds up the synthesis of more elastic gluten.
How to autolyse dough?
Despite having a rather convoluted name, autolyse is really extremely straightforward and just has three main phases.
Making the dough
You must combine the flour and the recipe’s liquids in this first stage. These liquids in bread and pizza may be water or eggs, milk, cream, etc., if you are making a leavened pastry dough.
We advise you to hydrate your food to a level of between 55% and 58% of the weight of the flour, or up to 65% in the case of wholemeal flour, for the greatest outcomes. You may add more liquids if the recipe calls for them during the subsequent kneading step.
In this stage, it is essential to:
Not add yeast: Whether you are using sourdough, levain, or fresh yeast, it is crucial to avoid adding these components during the autolyse process since their fermentation would make the dough more rigid rather than elastic.
Not add salt: Like sugar, salt is a food that may either speed up or slow down the action of enzymes. All the benefits of using autolyse are negated if salt is added to the dough since it significantly slows down the work of the enzymes that break down the proteins in the wheat.
Only in really lengthy autolyses (over 8 hours, as you shall see) is it permissible to add a little salt. Even if you add salt, we recommend that you add approximately 0.1% to the weight of the flour.
Duration of Autolysis
Since it relies on a variety of conditions, it makes no sense to provide a certain time for autolysing the dough. However, the time taken for the dough to autolyse is:
Flour Strength: A weak flour (W approximately 260 with 10% of proteins) needs an autolyse for up to 20 minutes (at 20°C, or 68°F). However, strong flour needs a longer time, about 60 to 80 minutes.
Temperature: The autolyse process might take up to 8 hours if the dough is kept at a temperature of 20–22°C. This is in the case of particularly strong flours. On the other hand, you may choose to store the food for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator at +4°C (39°F). In most situations, working at room temperature and choosing an autolyse between 40 and 80 minutes is a highly successful strategy.
Before moving on to the next phase, it is essential to make sure the dough has formed a superb gluten mesh. To achieve this, take a piece of dough between your hands and spread it out into a thin sheet that won’t rip easily.
When ready, combine the remaining ingredients with the dough in the correct sequence to complete the recipe. You’ll undoubtedly see that the dough will be finished fast, with the gluten already formed.
Benefits of autolysing dough
When you use the method of autolysing dough, you might get a number of advantages. The major factor is its adaptability.
An Autolyse dough will be simpler to work with since it is hydrated but not submerged in water. This makes it more pliable and smooth.
There will be no need for excessive kneading since while the dough is resting, the gluten protein will also be active even without the yeast and begin breaking down.
The gluten fibers that keep the dough together also make it difficult to form. Better gluten development is made possible by the technique, making stretching and expanding simpler.
Because autolyse dough is made with less kneading, the pigments within the dough are less likely to oxidize and be damaged, giving the dough a better taste and color.
When should I autolyse my dough?
Understanding when to use the autolyse approach is useful now that we know how to perform it.
Despite the great enthusiasm that this approach generates, it is important to understand that it neither stands alone as the secret to the ideal dough nor is it a general solution that can be applied to all situations.
Let’s examine more closely when autolyzing the dough is beneficial:
- When you operate with flour that is excessively strong. For instance, when you wish to produce homemade bread or pizza (for example, Manitoba flour.)
- This characteristic of flour is somewhat less noticeable in handmade recipes. However, in certain circumstances, such as when using whole-wheat semolina or whole-wheat flour, you will note that the dough tends to be rough and less elastic.
- Ensuring the gluten is flexible and well-developed is necessary. This situation mostly relates to the initial dough used in leavened goods like Panettone, Pandoro, and Colomba. In these situations, autolyse enables a significant reduction in kneading time to about 20 minutes.
A very crucial point to bear in mind is that an autolysed dough generates more elastic gluten and, therefore, less thrust during baking. This is particularly for bread produced with medium-strength wheat (such as Baguette or Ciabatta). It is crucial to give the dough more folds in order to restore its strength in order to enhance this element.
“Mix the water and flour and give it some time to sit, let the gluten structure develop and relax, let the heap of dough unite.”
Tips while making autolyse dough
- Even if there is less kneading, make sure the dough has been worked for enough time to encourage yeast activity and healthy gluten formation.
- Use instant dry yeast sparingly, as it won’t mix with the resting dough.
- The time needed to actually combine the resting dough and the other ingredients makes up for the shorter amount of time spent kneading.
- Perhaps soaking the yeast in the flour and water combination will save you the trouble of subsequently reintroducing a wet yeast mixture.
We hope this article has answered all your dough autolysing queries. Although we believe that completing an autolyse may sometimes simplify things and enhance your pizza-baking, it is not required for every pizza making session.