The chef at Flocons de Sel introduced me to the technique of the most basic method of bread making: the straight dough method.  The easiest, fastest way to improve the flavor of any bread, or, the autolyse [awe-toh-lees] method.  This is the term for “mix only your flour and water together, and let it sit for 40/60 minutes before adding salt and yeast, and kneading” and it’s really that simple. Let me explain what exactly “autolyse” means.  Etymologically speaking, it’s the French word for the biological term “autolysis”, which is from the Greek words meaning “self” and “splitting”.

Well, autolysis refers to the destruction of a cell by its own enzymes, or “self-splitting”.  In baking, this means that enzymes in flour (amylase and protease, if you really want to know) begin to break down the starch and protein in the flour.  The starch gets converted to sugar, and the protein gets reformed as gluten.

When you knead dough, you also oxidize it (expose it to oxygen).  Over-oxidized or, over-kneaded dough results in color and flavor loss in a finished bread, which means it’s often pale and tasteless.  By giving the mixed flour and water time to go through autolysis on their own, you achieve the same result, but without any of the unpleasant effects of oxidation.  Additionally, an autolyse period gives the flour time to soak up all the moisture, resulting in more orderly gluten formation.

Categories: Life Cycles

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