We're getting into sophisticated territory now. Not really, just sounds impressive.
What is autolyse?
This is the fancy term for “mix only your flour and water together, and let it sit for twenty minutes before adding salt and yeast, and kneading”.This explanation from the A Bread A Day blog is correct, except that the duration for letting the flour/water mix sit can be 20 to 60 minutes, according to various recommendations, and I did not knead. Indeed, if there is one rule of baking bread, it is that the materials, the humidity and the temperature affect the dough and the timing. Never read exact times as exact instructions. If I were to write a rule for bread recipes, it would be to give a possible range of completion times instead of an exact length of time. The same pretty much goes for exact ingredient quantities - and kneading timing, methods and whether it is necessary at all.
What does an autolyse do?
The flour and water sitting together (okay, I added vital wheat gluten to this mix) do something that builds the gluten and the result is that less time is necessary for kneading. Basically, the texture of dough stretchiness starts to happen and happens better without the presence of yeast, natural or commercial, and salt. Okay, I'm not even kneading, but decide to try it anyway.
Not sure whether using an autolyse also affects rising time, specifically whether rising time is decreased. Have researched this topic and have not discovered anything about this particular issue. However, suspect that leaving my dough out for nine hours when I went to work was too much. [Note: See later breads because first rise after autolyse is inevitably not anywhere near overnight or all day.]
Also have to look into whether one can use a sponge and an autolyse. Remember that a sponge employs all of the water, half of the flour, and all of the starter or yeast, whereas the autolyse includes all of the flour and water, but nothing else. However, as with everything else, the ingredients vary. I read somewhere about putting the salt in; not sure whether that was autolyse or sponge. Somewhere else there was a description of an hours-long autolyse resting time. Okay, heads up, but in bread #15, the first try was literally thrown in the garbage after an hour and a half autolyse rest. It looked like silly putty and would allow no mixing in of the other ingredients.
And have not even tried preferments, which is something different entirely. By the way, this is a bread with rye, whole wheat and bread flours.
For the autolyse
1 1/4 cups bread flour
7/8 cup rye flour (that was all I had left)
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 cups water
1/2 cup starter
1 1/2 tsp salt
1. Mix all of flour and vital wheat gluten. Mix well with all of the water. Let sit, lightly covered with plastic, for 30 to 60 minutes. Left mine for about 35. This will allow dough to start making strands, which requires less kneading, or in the case of this bread, no kneading.
2. Mix the remainder of the ingredients, the starter and the salt. Mix well. Don't be embarrassed. Put those clean hands right in. The bad part of this exercise is that there is no visual cue to show that the salt has been mixed in thoroughly. Operate on instinct and make sure the starter is totally integrated into the dough. [Note: Could not find the caraway seeds, so did not add any.] Cover loosely with plastic, or, green person that I am, with a plastic bag that can be reused.
3. Left out dough for nine hours. Continues to be a matter of uncertainty when the dough is actually ready.
4. Not putting dough in fridge and instead preparing dough to be made the same day.
5. Sprinkle dough with flour and prepare a well-floured board. Put plenty of flour on your hands. Stretch the dough, fold in as if making an envelope and then when have somewhat rectangular tripartite fold, fold the say way but with the new lengthwise. That seems incomprehensible. Cover loosely with plastic.
6. Let sit 15 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
7. Put shaped dough in a well-floured bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic for 60 to 90 minutes.
8. Use either parchment paper or a well-floured peel to place dough on baking stone in oven. Or, you can do what I did, which is use a not-quite-sufficiently-floured peel, which stretched the dough and looked like utter disaster. Fearful that completely ruined this bread. Put top of la cloche over dough or steam oven.
9. At 30 minutes, reduce heat to 450 degrees. Remove both la cloche top and parchment paper.
10. Leave in bread for 10 more minutes.
Wow, had terrific oven spring. Bread really rose and looked gorgeous despite awful stretching while getting the dough off the peel and onto the baking stone. Tasted decent, well good, but still had not risen as much as it could have.
Still want to make 100 percent whole grain and getting depressed that almost every bread book has few or any such recipes, Seems all of the fancy bread bakers prefer white flour.