No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Autolyse - an investigation

Sunday 4th March,

Here we go again! :-)

Beginning at 9.15am (bit more organised this time!) I combined 450g wholemeal flour and 500g of water into a sloppy dough, covered it with a dry teatowel and left it on the worktop.

2.00pm: Added 5g fresh yeast and 30g (ml) cold water and gave the gloopy mix a vigorous mixing for about thirty seconds, to ensure the yeast properly reaches all parts. My 'D-shaped spatula with handle' is  particularly useful for this:
Just flour and water at this stage
By 6.15pm it looked like this:

Now it's bursting with life - the yeast is doing its work
Now I added the rest of the ingredients - 150g strong white flour, 90g ground flaxseeds, 7g salt and 54g olive oil - and mixed into a shaggy mass:

Doesn't look much, does it?
Now I shall give it several short kneadings at intervals over a period - and eventually, after I'd got it to the stage where it could be left to prove for an hour or so, I realised I'd done it again! I'd missed out 100g of wholemeal. I added 150 to 450 and got 700! :( And me with an 'O' level in maths!

This is always a sticky dough, and this was pretty sticky - it was taking me longer than usual (more short kneadings than is normally the case) to get it to a stage where it could be shaped. But eventually, after I'd reached that stage, I realised what I'd done.

So I added the 100g wholemeal, with 60g of water and another 5g of yeast (it was getting late and I was up against the clock) and kneaded it all together. Eventually I was happy with it and shaped it into rolls.

I've decided to reduce the size of my rolls, somewhat, so I divided the dough into 14 instead of 12 and shaped into rolls:

Need to huddle them together somewhat so that they would fit under my roasting tray - using the 'undercover' method
Eventually I baked them off, finishing about 1.45am!

They were weighed off at approximately 104g each - and, after baking and cooling they weighed between 84 and 98g. The ones in the middle, of course, lost the most moisture.
I've had a couple of these rolls today, and there's no doubt they're very tasty. But then, my rolls always are. The only difference I can see is that, once again, they seem to be a tad lighter than my usual rolls.

The next batch I make, after freezing, I'll take, along with one from this batch, to a group of friends and do a blind tasting with them.

Hopefully, I'll get my maths right next time!

[More to come]

Saturday 18th February
Had to make some more rolls today, so I thought I'd have another go at an autolyse.

Starting at 7.10 in the evening I mixed 550g Dove's wholemeal with 485ml of water and left it for a couple of hours.

Later than I meant to, around 9 o'clock I added 8g of salt, 60g of flax seeds and the rest of the liquid - 55ml which included 10g of fresh yeast, plus 50g EVOO.

I couldn't understand why it was so wet - for over an hour I was giving it a short knead, leaving it for ten minutes, kneading again, etc, and eventually I thought, "I'll have to go with this." To test if it was OK once moulded, I shaped a roll and left it for ten minutes. It was fine.

I then started weighing out the rolls - divide the dough into six pieces, weigh them around 220g then divide each piece into two before shaping. Puzzlingly, I found I was about 100g light??

Only then did I realise that I hadn't added the usual 150g of white flour I was supposed to add, to give me a hydration of 70% (700g flour + 60g ground flaxseeds to 535ml water).

Stupidly, instead of working out that I needed around 60g flour and 40g water, I added some white flour without measuring it - so then I had to keep adding water to achieve a workable dough. Eventually,  after much faffing about I got it to my liking.

The mix ended up about 60g heavier than my usual, so my rolls will be bigger by an extra 5g.

I then went ahead and proved and baked them - under cover as is my wont - and I'll check them tomorrow to see if there is any difference in flavour.

I didn't come back as I intended - but I have to report that, while I could detect no difference in flavour, they did seem to be a tad bigger and lighter than my usual rolls. However, since there are so many variables (especially the way I mishandled the ingredients) that I can't say it was down to the autolyse process. More work to be done!

Friday, 9th December
In a recent conversation on the BBC Food message board about the effects of adding salt to a dough and when you should add it, the subject of the autolyse method of making bread came up.

I first have to say that, experienced bread baker as I am, I’ve not looked closely at this method of preparing a bread dough before.

Reading about the explosive increase  of flavour experienced by users of method I knew I’d have to investigate further – which meant a side by side trial!:(

(I have to say the bloke who’s method I’m following – perhaps mistakenly – is full of contradictions. We’ll come to them later.)

So: needing to make a side-by-side trial, whilst making a batch of rolls to take up to my daughter for my weekend trip to London, I divided my dough in two.

Batch A:
300g wholemeal
50g white
30g of ground flaxseeds (this is how I get my Omegas)

all mixed together – 50g of the mix set aside with 4g of salt added (the handful the author describes)

To the remainder I added:
269g of yeast liquid – including 4g fresh yeast
25g EVOO

Batch B:
300g wholemeal
50g white
30g of ground flaxseeds
4g salt

all mixed together – 50g of the mix set aside

To the remainder I added:
266g of yeast liquid – including 4g fresh yeast
25g EVOO

I mixed each of these into a dough, then left them – for about 30 minutes. When I came to add the rest of the flour – in one case – and the flour and salt in another, I mixed the flour into the dough and left it. I have to say that the dough – despite using the same amount of water as I usually do – came together in a much less sticky dough.

I have to say I could find no difference in flavour between the two batches. The flavour overall is excellent - but then, it always is!

Here's another conversation where adding salt whilst autolysing doesn't seem to make any difference.

Tonight I'm comparing half a batch of rolls using the autolyse method with half using my usual 'several short kneadings' method of making bread.