Freo Plain + Autolyse/Malt

My friend Grace came all the way up from the South Coast of England to do a microbakery course with me a couple of years ago. Next thing I know she’s moved to Fremantle, Western Australia and is running a little home-based bakery, Cariad Bakery.

I’m really interested in her experiences because she’s working in a much hotter climate than North Wales. Don’t laugh: North Wales has a great climate for baking because we don’t have extremes of temperature and humidity.

This is my kitchen thermometer which hasn’t been reset for a couple of years showing a minimum of 12C and a maximum of 30C – that includes the coldest winter nights and two ovens belting out heat for several hours at a time in high summer. Consequently I don’t have to bother adjusting my water temperature to achieve the Desired Dough Temperature (DDT) – I use water straight from the tap. In any case I’m not sure that DDT makes any sense if your dough is going straight from mix to overnight fermentation in the fridge.

Grace says she uses a rye starter at 200% hydration (in contrast to my 100% wheat) because it does better in her extremes of heat. She says, “The method I use is to autolyse for 20 mins, then add salt and fold every 30 mins for 2-3hours (depending on room temperature). I also tend to increase and decrease the water depending on summer or winter. I usually make about 8 loves of each and only reduce water by about 20-30 mls in summer for this quantity. I do tend to be strict about dough temp though (about 24-26C) and use a large portion of fridge cold water in summer as the kitchen can get up to well in in excess of 30C (with no oven on) and I loathe the air conditioning.”

She does the opposite to me, fermenting the dough at ambient temperature and then shaping the loaves and proving them overnight in the fridge. She also uses diastatic malt at 1.5%.

According to Shipton Mill, diastatic malt is “A barley malt commonly used in flours to increase the extraction of sugars from the flours for use as food for the yeast during fermentation and to increase the residual sugars in the dough at the time of baking to promote increased crust browning. The diastatic malt is produced from barley that has been sprouted, dried and ground into flour. The diastatic malt works through enzymatic activity (it provides additional alpha-amylase) to release sugar from the damaged starch molecules of flour.”

Autolyse is a period where a dough’s flour and water is mixed and allowed to rest for 20-60 minutes before the salt and yeast is added. Here are some quotes from The King Arthur Flour site.

“Two enzymes that are present in flour — protease and amylase — begin their work during the autolyse:

  • The protease enzymes degrade the protein in the flour, which encourages extensibility.
  • The amylase enzymes turn the flour’s starch into sugars that the yeast can consume.

Proper dough development requires a balance of both extensibility and elasticity. By delaying the addition of yeast, sourdough starter and salt (all of which can have a tightening effect on gluten), the extensibility of the dough has a better chance to develop. Once kneading begins, the dough develops elasticity, which is the quality that allows the dough to retain its shape.”

According to the King Arthur site, the beneficial effects of autolyse include:

  • The flour fully hydrates. This is particularly useful when working with whole-grain flour because the bran softens as it hydrates, reducing its negative effect on gluten development.
  • Gluten bonds begin developing with no effort on the part of the baker, and kneading time is consequently reduced.
  • Carotenoid pigments remain intact, leading to better color, aroma, and flavor.
  • Fermentation proceeds at a slower pace, allowing for full flavor development and better keeping quality.
  • The dough becomes more extensible (stretchy), which allows it to expand easily. This leads to easier shaping, greater loaf volume, a more open crumb structure, and cuts that open more fully.

In doughs using liquid starters (i.e. mine) the starter is included in the autolyse.

Anyway, Grace kindly sent me two of her regular bread formulas so I thought I would try one of them, Freo Plain, and, while I was at it, to bake one loaf using autolyse and malt and one without.

Freo Plain is mainly white flour + just over 11% wholemeal + additional flavour from the rye starter. Grace sprinkles her proving baskets with rye flakes but I didn’t have any.


The loaf on the right had the autolyse and the malt:


You can see that the malt has had a darkening effect on the crust of the right hand loaf.

Photographs don’t bring out small differences but the right hand loaf has slightly more volume than the un-autolysed loaf.

I did a similar experiment back in 2013 (click here) with autolyse and had pretty much the same result: increased volume but not enough to make me change my methods.

Anyway, Grace, thank you for the formula and for forcing me to use my brain a little. It produces a very nice light but flavoursome loaf – I’m thinking of doing it for customers next week.

Wonder if it would make any difference if I used rye starter at 100% hydration and added the difference to the water in the dough?

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