The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie with question about salt and hydration

  • Pin It
aroma's picture

Newbie with question about salt and hydration

Hi all,

I've been 'lurking' on the sidelines for sometime now and I have to say that I have found the content of these pages invaluable to my quest for a respectable sourdough. But it's time I joined up!!

As a bit of background - my mother and her mother ran a small bakers in the 1930s in Fetcham, Surrey (England) and as a result we always had fresh home-made bread during my youth.  It wasn't until I left home that I got to taste that disgusting thing called bread that most people have to eat.  As a result, I badgered my mum to show me how to make good bread and I've been doing it ever since - now nearly 40 years!  This is conventional yeasted bread mostly with fresh yeast (which is still available at supermarkets - just).

However, on a recent trip I stayed at a place where the owner baked sourdough and I was greatly impressed.  I asked for some of her yeast culture and took it home in a plastic pot - it survived two hot days in a car and a night in a hotel.  Initially, I had problems with handling very wet dough and not kneading but gradually, I have acquired the skills and can now turn out a good loaf of sourdough - it has so much more taste than the conventional yeasted bread I used to make.  I am now a complete convert to sourdough bread and have used the technique for focaccia, ciabatta, pizza etc with good results.

By trial and error, I have established the role of salt in sourdough and I can see that it is essential but I would like to reduce the amount of salt in my bread.  I've been using 2% salt (2% of the flour content) up to now but to me, it seems a lot and I would like to reduce this to 1%.  I've tried searching for a decent recipe using 1% but had little success - so does anyone out there have a good recipe/technique for low salt sourdough?

Also, and this seems a bit strange to me, but it seems that when people talk about hydration rates of sourdough bread there is a lack of consistency - I can see that the water content of the starter is included in the calculation but why isn't the flour content of the starter included as well?

So a couple of issues which have been bothering me for a while - I hope the experts here will be able to enlighten me.

Best wishes


Ford's picture

To get a recipe using 1% salt, just use your present recipe and cut the amount of salt to half.  The loaf will probably rise a little sooner, and the taste will change, but I would not expect any other change.

In calculating the hydration of dough, I take into consideration all liquid and all flour, including that in the starter.

Not an expert, but my opinion,


WoodenSpoon's picture

Say your final dough mix calls for 500g flour and 100g of 100% hydration levain, that levain consists of 50g water and 50g flour, I would add that 50g flour to the 500g final flour and calculate everything off that new total of 550g flour, then when I calculate the water weight I would subtract the amount of water that is already contained in the levain.

aroma's picture

That was my method of calculating hydration but some people seems to ignore the flour in the levain and it makes quite a difference.

With regard to the salt issue - I was using a recipe with 2% salt which called for an overnight prove in the fridge.  This was working well until I started using a reduced (1%) salt content - now I am finding that I am over-proving and so I am currently working a way around that.  I just wondered if anyone has any tried and tested alternatives and whether they have tried other ingredients to 'improve' the taste.  My baking today is my 'standard recipe' but with a small amount of olive oil.  However, this is already in the oven just 7 hours from the start to avoid over-proving.  My recipe is a 3:2:1 (510g flour, 340g water and 170g levain (at100%)) with just 5g salt.



pmccool's picture

The final dough consists of 510 + 85 = 595g of flour, 340 + 85 = 425g of water, and 5g of salt.  Another gram of salt will be required to reach the 1% level.

Doughs with less salt will ferment faster than doughs with more salt, all other things being equal.  If you want the lower salt content, you will have to ferment the dough for a shorter time at the temperatures you presently use or lower the temperature for the length of time that you have been using to prevent over proofing.  In any event, keep an eye on the dough because it will be ready when it is ready, regardless of what the clock says.

As for flavor changes, you can manipulate temperatures to modify flavor.  You can also include some whole-grain flours , if you aren't already.

Best of luck,


aroma's picture

I hadn't thought of that - I'll use 6g next time and try whole-grains.