If you want to find out what salt does for your loaf, try and leave it out and take a bite…
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A while ago we took a closer look at the percentage of salt we put into our bread. If you are a big bread eater, chances are high you get a lot of your daily salt intake via your sandwiches.
The UK recently came out with a new standard for the amount of salt in bread baking. So we tested this new standard to find out what the effect would be for our own bread baking and want to share the result with you…
First, some things you need to know about salt and bread baking:
What does salt do?
- Salt is a natural antioxidant and not only adds taste but especially helps bring out the flavors and aromas present in the flour and other ingredients.
- Next to its role in boosting the flavor of your bread, salt plays a role in tightening the gluten structure and adding strength to your dough. It helps the loaf to hold on to the carbon dioxide gas that is formed during fermentation, supporting good volume.
- Salt slows down fermentation and enzyme activity in dough. The salt crystals draw water away form their environment (salt is ‘hygroscopic’). When salt and yeast compete for water, salt wins and the yeast is slowed down.
- Because of its moisture maintaining properties, salt can prevent bread from getting stale but it can also (this is especially true in humid environments) absorb moisture from the air and leave you with soft crusts and soggy bread.
How much salt is considered normal in bread baking?
In bread baking the percentage of salt added that is considered normal, ranges from 1.8% to 2.2% of the total amount of flour, depending on the recipe and personal preference. Low salt contents can lead to bland loaves, anything over the 2.2% norm will likely be considered too salty. The UK recently came out with a new standard of 1 gram of salt per 100 grams of the final baked bread or about 1.5 to 1.6% of the total amount of flour. So instead of a percentage of salt to flour, they give the amount of salt per 100 gram of the actual finished product / bread.
Should I be afraid of salt touching my yeast?
Short answer: NO! Usually you add salt and yeast to your flour and immediately start mixing. It is totally unnecessary to put salt on one side and yeast on the other and seconds later start mixing them together anyway. You do not want to add salt on top of fresh yeast and leave it for minutes because then the salt will indeed kill the yeast.
What type of salt should I use for bread baking?
All salt is good, as long as the salt crystals are fine enough and dissolve easily. A lot can be said for different types of salt, some contain additives, some have other minerals next to the sodium chloride (NaCl) considered beneficial for you (like Celtic sea salt which is also lower in sodium). You can make up your own mind as far as the health benefits go, taste wise it will not make a big difference to your loaf. Due to the relatively small quantity of salt it would be really hard to detect subtle differences in flavor.
Our own findings with the new salt content standard
So, we looked at our own baking and did a test with this new UK standard of 1 gram salt per 100 grams baked loaf. For example, for a standard pain rustique (750 g dough, weighing about 680 g after baking) this would mean lowering the added salt from 8 g to 6.8 g or from 1.17 g to 1 g per 100 g bread.
Examples of bakers percentages for a loaf of pain rustique:
2.2% of total flour would mean almost 10 g of salt added to the recipe
2% – about 9 g of salt
1.8% – just over 8 g of salt
1.5% – about 6.8 g of salt (the new UK standard)
We tested and tasted the bread with new, lower salt content several times, together with some bread friends. Result: We all had a very hard time noticing any difference. There is a line below which it would become noticeable of course, but this new standard is no problem for us. We have to add that using high quality (organic) flour also makes a big difference in taste and perception of saltiness. Also see our flour experiments. To enhance flavor, salt has to have something to work with, and it will have a hard time bringing out any flavor when the flour you work with is overly processed and bland to begin with!
We now use it in most recipes for our daily bread, except when making dough for things like pizza and focaccia and other flatbreads. For these special breads our personal preference is to make this dough a bit saltier.
Let us know your thoughts on salt!