Autolyse is the French equivalent of the English word autolysis, which means the self-digestion of a living cell through the action of the enzymes that it produces. Autolysis normally occurs in damaged or dying tissue.

In breadmaking, the French word autolyse has acquired a different meaning. Coined in the early 1970s by the French expert on baking Dr Raymond Calvel, it refers to a process wherein the flour and water for a bread dough are mixed for a few minutes without salt and yeast. The dough is left to rest for a period of time, usually between 15 and 30 minutes, before the remaining ingredients are added and the dough is kneaded. Autolyse improves the extensibility of bread dough, giving a more open crumb and greater volume in the finished loaf.

Want to find out more? Look at the chapter on pre-ferments in the book flour and water.

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