What is autolyse?

Autolyse is a method whereby the flour and water (of a bread recipe) are first mixed together, then rested for a period of time.  This helps make exceptionally extensible dough. The rest period of this unleavened dough is around 15-30 minutes, after which the leavened sponge and salt are added to complete the mixing/kneading process. During the autolyse period, the flour is hydrated with no competition from the other dry ingredients.  Flour proteins and damaged starch  have ample time to hydrate, oxidation happens, enzymes are active (protease enzymes improve the extensibility of dough), and gluten is allowed to relax before kneading. Autolyse reduces the total mixing time and increases the extensibility of the dough.  Making a strong, extensible, less-sticky dough that is easier to form into loaves. The loaves with autolyse period are bigger, lighter, has strong, open crumb and better keeping qualities. Autolyse process is better used in machine mixing rather than hand kneading, as hand kneading is a slow process that does not build up tension in the dough.  The autolyse method is very favorable for baguette production