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Do we make bread? Let's destroy the flour

In this post we will deal with the technique of preparing bread by autolysis

25 February 2020

Autolysis is a particular technique for making bread that allows you to take advantage of the self-disintegration of gluten proteins and starch molecules. The term autolysis derives from the Greek auto = itself and lisis = disintegration, and in our case it indicates biological, chemical and colloidal processes that we trigger in the dough where enzymes naturally present in the flour (protease and amylase) help to speed up the formation of the dough and its mechanical and organoleptic quality. These processes begin during the dough rest. In this phase the gluten (the protein part of the dough) undergoes changes (precisely lysis) by the protease enzymes, activated by the water of the dough. Proteases are the protagonists of the reaction called proteolysis, with this reaction, the glutinic mesh of the pasta is crushed into smaller pieces, the protein chains thus obtained stretch, the pasta acquires greater extensibility and becomes more malleable. A second reaction is offered by the amylase enzymes, thanks to them the long starch chains are split into molecules of simple sugars (glucose which is the nourishment of the yeast), providing more sugars available in the dough, thus facilitating the fermentation of the yeasts and bringing consequently to the final product better organoleptic characteristics such as more intense taste and aroma. The use of the autolysis technique gives the final product therefore numerous benefits: the final dough will have a smooth, elastic and malleable consistency, capable of absorbing greater quantities of water, the bread will acquire a greater volume and its crumb will be very developed and soft thanks to the action on gluten; on the starch / yeast side we will have organoleptic benefits (such as taste and aroma) and shelf life.

The phases of the dough

The dough for autolysis takes place in three phases: 

1. initial mixing of the flour with water; 
2. dough rest (autolytic part); 
3. final dough. 

In the first phase mix flour and water at low speed in the planetary (in the dose of 55% of the weight of the flour) for a time of 5-8 minutes. At this point the first phase is over. 

In the second phase, the obtained dough undergoes autolytic rest which can last from 20 minutes, for the weakest flours, to 24 hours for the strong ones. Note that if the rest time is longer than 5-6 hours, it is advisable to add a part of the salt (33% of its total weight) to the first mixture and reduce the weight of the water to 45-50%. The autolytic mixture in this case must be kept well covered at a temperature of + 18-20°C. While the short rest autolytic dough is left at room temperature in the mixer bowl. 

In the third phase, that is, that of the final dough, the missing ingredients are added in the recipe: yeast, malt, any missing water, salt, oil, flavorings, etc ... everything is mixed at a higher speed (3-4) for the time necessary to obtain a smooth and elastic mass.

The finished product

To conclude the autolysis technique it allows to obtain the final product, marked by three particularities: 

1. a distinctive flavor, 
2. an excellent development 
3. a longer shelf-life 

In addition, we reduce the dough times, the consistency of the dough becomes particularly smooth and workable, it is easier to form the piece of bread and the finished product has a higher volume, better honeycombing and greater softness of the crumb.