All Things Bread No.9

Hello Friends of Sourdough!
In this edition we discuss Autolyse and Oven temperature distribution. Today a childhood friend joined the newsletter, welcome Deepika! We go way way back, to like the 80’s (even though Deepika is only 22) I’m so glad to have started this and to have all of you, my new friends and way-back-when friends here. It means a lot.

Our zooms are so much fun and we all learn so much from each other. I’m so grateful to have Keshav and Anmol and Reshma’s baking experience with me on the chat! 


All Things Bread 
Autolyse is the technique of mixing the flour and water in your recipe first and then allowing the mixture to sit on its own in a covered container for anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours. 
This technique unlocks flavour and texture in a unique way and I encourage everyone to try it for themselves. 

How does it work in practice?
Well firstly If you were not doing an autolyse then your process would look something like this:
1. Take out starter from fridge, remove half, then feed this half every 12 hours to make it into a Leaven.
2. Gather rest of ingredients and once Leaven is ready, mix all ingredients together
3. Place this container in fridge for a 12 to 24 hour Bulk fermentation.
…After the Bulk you go onto the dividing, shaping, proofing and so on…

And if you are doing an autolyse then your process would look like something like this:
1. Take out starter from fridge, remove half, then feed this half every 12 hours to make it into a Leaven.
2. Take the intended amount of flour and water and mix them well (but no need to knead yet 🙂 and allow to rest on countertop for the time you have decided on. The time depends on your schedule convenience and flour type (Shorter for refined / All purpose flours and longer for whole grain flours) This is your Autolyse.
3. Then, with autolyse done and once your leaven is ready, mix all ingredients together
4. Place this container in fridge for a 12 to 24 hour bulk fermentation.
After the Bulk you go onto the dividing, shaping, proofing and so on…

So what IS autolyse anyway? When you ‘hydrate’ dry flour, ie make it wet, there are enzymes already in the flour that come alive and start breaking down the starch (which is tasteless) into its constituent natural sugars (which are yummers).
This results in a flavour explosion within the dough. The released sugars serve three purposes: they provide a yeast-feast (for when you add in Young Leaven), they make the bread more flavourful, sweet even, without adding any sugar! And thirdly, it is these sugars that give you the beautiful golden or reddish or caramel brown crust once the loaves are baked thanks to the maillard reaction.

Personally I’m such a fan of autolyse that I believe you should “autolyse all the things” ie, use autolyse in almost ALL bread recipes and also for things like roti / paratha!
(For Hendrik, krentenbollen uses a similar autolyse technique – as do so many other of your dutch breads)


Zoom Debrief
I’m having so much fun with the starter names! Do you know what your hip-hop name is? It’s ‘Young’ followed by the last thing you spent money on – for example if you just paid the electricity bill, then ‘currently’ your hip hop name is Young Power.

Similarly once we move to the baking stage and you start to make your Leavens (by simply accelerating the feeding of your starters) You could name your leavens “Young _” followed by your original starter’s name! So for eg Young Pintu for Ekam 🙂

Oven temperature: We discussed how all ovens have a unique pattern of temperature variation. Reshma provided great insight into the shape of this pattern (an ‘X’ shape) and that got me on a google-spree and I found this cool website with more info on Baking temperatures.

And not all oven thermostats (the device that controls temperature) are created equal. Some can be off by as much as 20 degreesC!
You can check yours using an oven thermometer. This way you know what the actual temperature is near where your loaf is baking and you can adjust temp accordingly.

We discussed how most home ovens need a little help with keeping a fairly stable and evenly distributed heat.
Here are 3 things you can do to help, in decreasing order of effectiveness: 
1. Get a heavy slab of granite that will fit in the base of your oven! Your oven which used to take 20 mins to preheat will now take up to an hour but it’s absolutely worth it. 
2. Use the convection or fan function if installed, to help distribute the heat. You’ll still get a hot zone towards the back of the oven and a less hot zone on the door side.
3. Midway or 3/4th way into the baking time, rotate the loaf 180 degrees to even things out.

See you today at 4pm Dubai!