The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Salt?

Rosalie's picture
Rosalie

Bread Salt?

So I'm moseying around on the Internet and a link takes me to the King Arthur site.  Okay, while I'm here, I'll see if they have anything new or interesting.  And I come across Bread Salt.


http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/bread-salt-16-oz


The blurb calls it "An all-natural salt that's ideal for bread baking."  It also says "[Its] high mineral content helps feed yeast in a rising loaf. "


Questions:


(1) What makes this salt so special?


(2) Helps feed yeast?


Rosalie 

suave's picture
suave

1. It's $7/lb + S&H, making it what, 20 times more expensive than table salt? 25? + S&H, so make it 50.  Sounds pret-ty special to me.


2. Minerals help the dough grow by strengthening gluten, not by "helping feed the yeast".  So, sadly (albeit not really surprisingly), they don't know what they're talking about.  Well, probably they do, but it's marketing dept that's doing all the talking. 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

I have not looked at the KA salt but I do know this much...Unrefined sea salt is a healthy product loaded with trace minerals that are essential to life and it tastes quite good.  Refined salt (that stuff in the round blue box) is a highly processed product stripped of most of its natural goodness and then mixed with things you don't really want.  It does not taste so good and it is really not good for you.


Jeff

flournwater's picture
flournwater

There may be more hype about salt in the cooking and baking industry than any other single ingredient.  Lets go back to basic chemistry.  Remember the bunsen burner?


Most of those who promote one salt over another actually don't know what they're talking about.  Salt that is routinely applied to cooking and baking, is sodium chloride.  It's not the ony salt (we have potasium chloride, potasium iodide, sodium nitrate, etc.) but unless you specify a specific chemical compound in selecting your salt, it's going to be 99% sodium chloride.  The little girl on the round blue box adds iodine (potasium iodide) to her salt as a health benefit.  At least it was a health benefit back in the days when it was first introduced as a prevention against thyroid disease.  It is generally accepted that the shortage of iodine, a necessary part of a healthy diet and usually obtained from vegetables, is not longer an issue in this country.


Depending on the location from where the salt is mined, it will contain trace minerals from its surrounding geological influences.  "Trace" minerals are not significant and, except for the fact that they tend to color salt, I've done double blind tests and I can tell you that no-one can detect the "flavor" of those minerals in their salt  -  especially when it's combined at a rate of 1% or less in a given recipe.  Most people can, however, detect the iodine flavor if potasiuim iodide is added to a sample being taste tested  but once it's in solution in a prepared recipe it's virtually indectable.  Salt can be processed to make it flaky, coarse, etc., but it's still salt.  Even "No Salt" is not salt free.  It's simply potasium chloride.


 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

"An increasingly large amount of disease today may be attributable to deficiencies in the supply of trace minerals in our diets....


A minimum of at least 60 trace minerals has been demonstrated to be vital to health and well-being."


http://www.traceminerals.com/research/migraines.html

flournwater's picture
flournwater

It's an advertisement, for heaven's sake.


Linked to this products page:


http://www.traceminerals.com/products.html


An alternative medicine practitioner:


http://www.integrativepractitioner.com/article_ektid944.aspx


"ND" after his name represents:  Naturopathic Doctor  (he's not an MD,  - I wouldn't accept his premise if he were an MD.  A some of them will publish anything to get a hand on the money in your pocket)


A quote from:


http://www.ehow.com/how_2031469_accredited-naturopathic-schools.html


"Naturopathic medical colleges are graduate institutions that offer complete physician training comparable to allopathic medical schools. Students who want to become primary care providers in states that license naturopathy need to attend accredited naturopathic schools. Unsanctioned programs may be limited to one modality, and content may vary. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education evaluates accredited schools periodically to ensure the highest standard of comprehensive natural health care education. Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that can encompass a variety of treatments like acupuncture, massage, and nutritional counseling to treat many different conditions, including allergies, asthma and arthritis."

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

"The number of trace minerals known to be essential to life now exceeds thirty, and some researchers believe that for optimum health we need to take in every substance found in the earth's crust. Along with familiar trace minerals, such as iron and iodine, the body also needs others less well known, like cobalt, germanium and boron."        by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD.


http://www.westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/mineralprimer.html


Dr. Mary Enig is a world-renowned biochemist and nutritionist best known for her pioneering research on healthy fats and oils, and her early protests against trans fats more than twenty-five years ago. A consultant and clinician, she is also the former contributing editor of the scientific journal Clinical Nutrition and a consulting editor of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Dr. Enig received her Ph.D. in nutritional sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, a member of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, and president of the Maryland Nutritionists Association.


http://www.life-enthusiast.com/index/Articles/Enig

jeromethegiraffe's picture
jeromethegiraffe

Salt chemically is simply sodium chloride, which is the most plentiful mineral on earth. Personally, I use sea salt which I buy in bulk usually at the bulk grocer or health food store. The addition of salt in bread is to temper the yeast and add a bit of flavor. The key is in how much you add. I cannot understand why the salt you are referring to claims to "feed the yeast". Yeast feeds on the sweeteners and proteins in the dough, not the salt. At least not to my knowledge...


At $7 a pound plus shipping and handling it looks appears to be a rip-off...

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I'll make one post to reply to Rosalie's question, and then you folks can argue about the merits of special minerals in salt.


The difference, if any, will not be perceptible to the palate in most baked goods.  There's not enough salt in there.


The only way to be absolutely sure if it makes any difference at all is to do repeated tests using it vs. plain table salt (which is also all-natural), and then comparing results in flavor, height, aromas etc. between same-sized & fermented loaves.  I'd bet the farm that no one would be able to perceive any difference in performance using blind testing among multiple subjects.


Minerals actually can affect the rate of fermentation.  This is considered by many experts to be one contributing reason why whole grain flours usually ferment faster than white bread flours, if you used the same dough consistency and amount of yeast and salt. .  Most of the minerals in wheat are located in the bran, so white flour doesn't contain so many.


The truth is though that, if your water supply has sufficient mineral content, you probably don't need to worry much about providing sufficient minerals for your fermentation.  And just about all of us who use standard table salt get results that are just fine, and very predictable.


So maybe the right question isn't if this "bread salt" technically affects anything, but whether you actually need it or should pay 15 times as much for whatever subtle change it might make.


--Dan DiMuzio

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Dan,


I think that further investigation into "table salt" will reveal that it is anything but natural.  The following paragragh illustrates that point.


"Part of the process for refined salt, or commercial table salt, involves the use of aluminum, ferro cyanide and bleach. These are all toxic materials that your body takes in with refined, commercial salt. And because of that process, almost all the vital minerals that real, unrefined salt can offer are removed! ... Ferro cyanide is listed by the EPA as a toxic material for human consumption. You are probably aware of the hazards to human health of chlorine, which is used to bleach the salt."


http://www.naturalnews.com/026080_salt_sodium_health.html


Salt is salt and of that there is no debate.  However there is a drastic difference between unrefined sea salt and table salt with regard to what is attached to that salt.


I agree that in baked goods the difference in taste is not perceptible to 99% of the population.  However there is a noticeable taste difference in cooking and even more so in table use.  There are a number of studies available on the internet whose results  show just that.


As I said in my original post:  Unrefined sea salt is a healthy product loaded with trace minerals that are essential to life and it tastes quite good. Refined salt (that stuff in the round blue box) is a highly processed product stripped of most of its natural goodness and then mixed with things you don't really want.


Jeff

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

One of the first things we do at workshops here is to discuss ingredients: water, salt, yeast types, flour types.  A blind taste test on tap water, bottled water and spring water always has the same result: the spring water wins. A blind taste test on table salt, generic sea salt and gray sea salt from Brittany always has the same result: the Brittany salt wins.  Seems to me that if it tastes good independently then it will transfer that taste to our breads.  The effects might be subtle, sure, but why not given the ability to control them?


CJ

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

Hi Jim,


I mean no disrespect, and everyone's tastes are their own.  Still, unless you actually try those three different salts in three different batches of the same dough, where none of the tasters could know which was which, the comparison has little application to the bread itself.


Cook's magazine did a sea salt vs. table salt blind test in baked goods, and, if judging the salt's effects on dough taste (not as a topping), their panel could not tell the difference.  Sure -- sea salts from certain locations can taste different than others, but in such small concentrations (2% or so of flour weight), the different minerals attached to the NaCl molecules generally can't be perceived.


Some bakers choose to view sea salt as more "pure" somehow.  Professor Raymond Calvel (who taught bread to Julia Child) was known to be blunt in his assessments of almost anything, and he stated that the base liquid needed to extract Mediterranean sea salt was something like "one liter of sea water and 3 drops of diesel oil."  And -- all kidding aside -- all salt mines on land had as their source an earlier Earth that was completely submerged in sea water.  From that perspective, all salt is sea salt.


Again -- no disrespect intended toward folks who use expensive salts.  No one can tell you what salt you should use.  Still, while the appreciation of differences in salt flavors can be useful, its worthwhile application to bread dough is open to question.


--Dan DiMuzio


 

suave's picture
suave

is vanilla extract.  Cook's Illustrated recently did a test and claimed that in baked goods it was impossible to distinguish between real and imitation vanilla.  And then there was an article in NYT where they said that in blind tasting risotto made with $50 Italian wine was flat out beaten by a version made with $3 supermarket bottle.  So clearly better-tasting ingredient doesn't always translate into better-tasting product.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

And those were reportedly professional chefs(cooks) in that vanilla test, if I'm not mistaken. Actually, in some dishes, I think they said the imitation was deemed to be better tasting.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I think most people could discern the difference between various waters and salts (and probably skim, low fat, and whole milk) in blind taste tests just using those ingredients.


I was curious about sea salt so I purchased a small quantity of the $35-a-pound Fleur De Sel Sea Salt from Brittany and used it in my sourdough.  I could not tell any difference over the Kosher salt I regularly use, nor could anyone in my family.


Quite understandable since salt is only 1.8 percent of the total formula.  But the experience has led me to scoff at any advertising claiming that one artisan bread is superior to another simply because a special sea salt is used.  Unless it is placed on top of the bread, where it can be directly tasted. 


I will admit that the expensive stuff is pretty good on a freshly picked tomato, warmed by the sun!


The Cook's Illustrated article that Dan references can be found here; it's an interesting read.  


 

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Today it seems prudent to be aware of not only the taste of a product but the health aspects and origins of that product as well.


Jeff

CanuckJim's picture
CanuckJim

Thanks for all your comments.  First of all, there is no possible way I would ever use Fleur de Sel, either as a topping or in bread.  Far, far too expensive.  Instead, I use stone ground Sel Marin de Guerande that comes from Brittany and costs under $5 for 500 grams; that's a lot of loaves of bread.  We avoid iodized table salt, because it does have added chemicals to keep it in a dry, flowing state.  Still, I don't think gray sea salt is more "pure" than, say, kosher salt.  This is a very small part of the philosophy that when baking bread, which really only has four basic ingredients, the quality of those ingredients should be closely controlled/selected.  We don't use bleached flours, for example, although unbleached organic is a luxury.  By the same token, we don't use chlorinated tap water, mainly because of poor taste and our wild yeast starter does not do well with it.  As well, we avoid buying yeast (except, occasionally, cake) in supermarkets, because there is no best before date on the containers.  By preference, we use SAF IDY here; I find it the most consistent and predictable. There's a premium on it, sure, but bought in 500 gram bags, the cost differential is very small.


To sum up, over the years I've developed a list of ingredients that provides the most consistent, repeatable results.  Salt choice truly is a matter of taste, and it's a small component in our overall procedures.  Still, I always say if it tastes good on its own, it will make a subtle difference to the finished bread.  I guess it's not the individual ingredients but the combination that works for me.


CJ

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

I've tried a couple different salts, and there just isn't enough salt in the bread to be noticeable in the finished product. I just use store brand non iodized. It is 50 cent for whatever size the container is (12 or 16 oz, I forget).