Hand mixing, autolyse, and kneading


First off, I am thrilled to find that this forum exists. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only pizza maniac out there and I am really enjoying reading through The Pizza Bible. So, thanks to all.

I have been maintaining a very active, 100% hydration starter for quite some time and use that, and only that, to leaven my dough. I have used the autolyse method with certain artisan breads, but haven't yet tried it with pizza. I usually begin by weighing out my starter in a bowl and then adding ingredients (weighed) on top of the starter in that bowl. I do this because I worry that taking the opposite approach (pouring/scooping starter into the other ingredients) would leave too much starter clinging to the sides of the original container. By weighing starter and adding ingredients on top of it, I know definitively how much starter I use. Hopefully, that explanation makes sense. If I plan to autolyse and leaven with my starter, would the best approach be to hydrate the flour for an hour or so and then scrape that mixture into the appropriate amount of starter? Also, when using the autolyse method, do you recommend folding the mixture every 15 or so minutes?

I also have a question about mixing and kneading...sorry in advance for the long post. I currently don't have a stand mixer and mix all my dough by hand and with a dough whisk. I often worry that I am over-kneading, but have also heard that when it comes to hand kneading, it is really hard to over-do it. I will generally use the dough whisk until it becomes too cumbersome, then turn the dough out, and begin to knead. I give the dough what I would consider to be an aggressive knead for 10 or so minutes until it is tacky, but smooth. I then let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour, then divide, ball, and refrigerate for around 72 hours. I am usually pretty happy with the result, but know there is always room to improve. Would less kneading improve the dough? With bread, I was taught that dough should be kneaded until it is baby's butt smooth, so I am curious to know if pizza dough is the same.

Sorry again for being so long winded!

Jesse

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago

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Welcome Jesse. And no need to apologize for the detail. In fact, it's very helpful and is also great a reference to others.

For starters, no pun intended, here are two related posts on using an autolyse for pizza dough:

http://www.thepizzabible.com/posts/autolyse-method-question
http://www.thepizzabible.com/posts/autolyse-question

I incorporate a resting period when making some types of dough, but it doesn't meet the strict definition of an autolyse. Adam and Mike are very knowledgable and will hopefully add their two cents soon. :-)

Regarding mixing, I lean towards shorter mix times. Basically, just enough to for the dough to come together into a ball. With a mixer, it's easier to be consistent. By hand, it's a little less precise since the level of intensity can vary.

You should definitely try a batch with a shorter knead. You'll get a more open crumb structure, which a lot people like.

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted almost 2 years ago


Thanks very much for the response! So, am I correct in thinking that the dough doesn't necessarily have to be nice and smooth?

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago


That's correct. It should be properly mixed and most, if not all of the flour should be incorporated into the dough, but it certainly doesn't need to be perfectly smooth.

Give it a try and see how it goes. A lot of it depends on what you want your end result to be.

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted almost 2 years ago


Ok, great. I'll give it a shot. Thanks very much!

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago


Okay, with that kind of flattery from Raj, I have to weigh in.

First, as Raj suggests, in the traditional autolyse, you just mix the flour and water and then give it a rest. The starter is added after the autolyse. Depending on which pizza dough I'm making, I sometimes skip the autolyse. If I'm going to add yeast to the dough and it's a lower hydration, I skip the autolyse. So with the master dough, I wouldn't autolyse, unless I was using just the starter and none of the commercial yeast. The main reason is that with the lower hydration, the ratio of water to flour (before the yeast water mix is added) is so low that the dough doesn't get a good hydration and is tough to handle. But if you're just using the starter and not commercial yeast, you won't have that problem.

Second, in terms of how long to knead, I start my dough in a kitchenaid and finish it by hand. I agree with Raj that a shorter mix in the kitchenaid helps with a more open and irregular crumb structure. I gauge when to stop by using the windowpane test. Depending on the dough, I'll often do a short mix in the kitchenaid until there's just a hint of gluten development, and then I do a really short hand knead to get the feel of it, and then give it a series of folds every half hour or so. If I'm planning to fold it, though, I really want the dough temperature to be low, as I don't want it to start rising before I ball the dough.

Hope that helps!

Adam Sachs
posted almost 2 years ago


This is great information, Adam. Thanks very much!

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago


Jesse,

I second Adam's opinion. It's spot on. Like he said autolyse usually only involves flour & water. I've done this with all kinds of flours and resting times, anywhere from 30 mins to 5 hours.

But like Adam mentioned, with lower hydration doughs I'd skip the autolyse but would also give it a perhaps 20-30 minute rest during mixing after everything has been properly incorporated and then proceed with the regular mixing/kneading.

I would just experiment and see what works best for you and the final product you're shooting for.

Just my $0.02...

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Mike K.
posted almost 2 years ago


Thanks Mike! I think the way I formatted my original question may have led to confusion. It reads that I am asking about autolysing (sp?) with flour, water, and starter, which isn't really what I meant. I was actually curious about was how to best mix in the starter after the flour & water mix has had its autolyse. When describing my method of adding flour, water, and other ingredients on top of the starter I was depicting my normal method, which doesn't involve an autolyse.

I'll try and phrase it better, so please bear with me! As mentioned above, I normally prefer to add ingredients to a bowl that contains a predetermined amount of starter. If I do the opposite (adding starter to a bowl containing ingredients) I lose several grams of starter that sticks to the bowl. Will it change anything if I mix my flour and water to autolyse for a while, and then, after autolyse, scrape that into another bowl that contains the starter?

Lastly, when you do a true autolyse, do you normally perform any folds, or just leave it completely alone?

I hope that makes a bit more sense and sure apologize for initially phrasing the question in a confusing way.

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago

Jesse,

I don't see why it wouldn't work if you do the autolyse first and then add the flour & water mix to a separate bowl containing the starter. However, you could also go maybe a half percentage point higher with the starter to compensate for the bowl residue you're experiencing.

Regarding the autolyse, mix the flour and water together well and then don't touch it at all. Just leave it alone.

Hope this helps.

- Mike   almost 2 years ago


Good deal. Thanks, Mike! I really appreciate everyone's advice!

Have great weekend!

Jesse W.
posted almost 2 years ago


Quick update:

Last night I made dough using my starter and tried to autolyse. I don't think this is something I will do again. To account for the water in my 100% hydration starter, I have to scale back the amount of water to about 49%, which simply isn't enough to hydrate the flour...I ended up with a lumpy dough filled with clumps of dry flour. I had hoped that after a light knead and a night in the fridge, they might immerse into the dough and disappear. As of this morning, no such luck. I went ahead and gave the dough a quick, but aggressive knead this morning to get rid of the lumps and hope that didn't ruin it.

I think I will save autolyse for doughs in which I use commercial yeast. I am sure I would also get a better mix using a stand mixer, but for the time being, until that is an option, I will go back to a non-autolyse method.

Thanks again for all of the advice!

Jesse W.
posted over 1 year ago


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