Pro Tip: By using autolyze mixing, bakers can strengthen their doughs and get the most out of the gluten in the formulation.

Gluten or vital wheat gluten (VWG) is the insoluble part of wheat flour. The principal proteins are gliadin, glutenin, leucosin and globulin, and both gliadin and glutenin proteins constitute some 80% of the total wheat flour protein.

VWG is made by hydrating wheat flour, which activates the gluten protein, and then processed to remove everything but the gluten. Next, it is dried out and ground back into a powder. The quality and functionality of VWG is greatly dependent on the varieties of wheat flour (hard versus soft), the regions where it was grown (which will vary the glutenin to gliadin ratio) and the process in which it is made into VWG (moisture and lipid content).

It is important to take the time to understand your certificate of analysis and learn how ingredients function to optimize its efficiency. 

Since VWG comes to us as a dry powder form, there are alternative and even old techniques that people can use to improve or reduce the gluten they are using by following a technique called autolyze.

In 1956, Monsieur Calvel, professor at the French National Milling Association, created a mixing method called autolyze mixing.

Autolyze mixing can be used in combination with conventional mixing. Flour and water are mixed to the full water absorption without yeast or salt on low speed until a dough forms. The dough rests for 30 to 45 minutes. Then the rest of the ingredients are added before conventional mixing to full dough development.  

Monsieur Calvel demonstrated that using the autolyze method affects dough development in many positive ways. For example:

  • 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.

Richard Charpentier is a classically trained French baker, CMB, holds a degree in baking science from Kansas State University, and is owner and chief executive officer of Baking Innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn.