When writing this post, I accidently posted a rough draft. Sorry if it caused confusion.
When mixing a bread dough, often a recipe will ask you to allow the dough to rest after mixing and before kneading. This resting period is called the autolysis. What is the purpose?
Adding too much flour to dough will make the bread dry and heavy. Recipes give an amount of flour but because flour varies in the amount of moisture it can absorb, the actual amount of flour used will vary.
Allowing your bread dough to rest before kneading gives the dough time to absorb water and fully hydrate. I find this resting time is especially important when using whole grain flours. Whole grains will absorb more water than white flour but they take longer to absorb water. If you mix and knead the dough quickly, often too much flour will be added and the resulting bread will be dry and crumbly. By giving the flour some added time to hydrate, you will likely add less flour and result in a more successful bread.
My usual method is to mix the dough with all the ingredients and almost all the flour. I may reserve back one cup of flour if the recipe is unfamiliar to me. I mix the dough briefly, maybe one minute at low speed in my mixer. The dough may look coarse and shaggy at this point. I then shut off the mixer and allow the dough to sit for a few minutes. Sometime only five minutes, other times up to half an hour.
As a mother with young children, I find that this method works well for me. By the time I have the ingredients in the mixer and briefly stirred, there is probably some dire emergency that needs my attention! But I've learned to set the timer so that I don't forget the dough entirely! And who can really mind these interruptions?
When I come back to the dough, I mix for another minute. Usually the dough is much smoother at this time. I may need to add a little more flour. I then proceed with the kneading.
Not all bread recipes call for a resting period. You can add in a rest period, or not, as you wish.
Often you'll find recipes that add the salt AFTER this resting period. Salt does adversely affect the flour's hydration. But I usually add the salt with the all the other ingredients since I've had some bad experiences with forgetting salt in bread. Salt-less bread is barely palatable. If I do add the salt later, I sit my salt container on top of the mixer lid to remind me to add it after the rest.
Do you allow your dough to rest? Do you feel that it benefits the bread?