The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Figuring amount of salt - amount in relation to water?

malikaann's picture
malikaann

Figuring amount of salt - amount in relation to water?

Hi all-- I'm new to this forum, but it seems like the right place to ask this question. I'm trying to figure out a standard measure of salt to water in my bread dough, if that's even possible. Here's how I usually make my bread right now, starting in the morning:

start with warm/hot water + 100% starter/levain (usually cold from fridge) in bowl
add some flour
add yeast (sometimes, if I feel like I need the extra boost or a shorter rising time)
add salt (have been using 1 1/2 t. per cup of water, but it's been a little too salty)
add enough flour to make a soft dough
let rise 6-9 hours at room temp, undisturbed (I'm not usually at home) then fold it down, store overnight in the fridge
(I also feed my starter and leave it out on the counter for the same 6-9 hour period)
shape and proof for about 2 hours the next morning, then bake at 400 or 425

I don't weigh my flour. I do measure the water, and that's the way that I determine how much bread I'm going to make - I usually start with 5 1/2 cups water, including the water in the starter. But if I don't need as much, I'll start with 4 cups water instead, etc.

I definitely value variety over consistency - I vary the kinds of flour that I use, sometimes I add raisins or sweet potato or coconut or walnuts or onion... But I would like to have the level of saltiness be kind of consistent. Is there a way to figure out a standard measure of salt relative to water - 1 teaspoon per cup, or whatever - ss there a way to backwards-figure a percentage? or is this too much to ask because of the loosey-goosey method I'm using?

Thanks for any input!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

but salt is based on the flour.  That way you can add more or less drinking water and the bread tastes the same.  I think a rough estimate for cups is 1/2 teaspoon table salt to one cup of flour.   More accurate is to use the weight of the flour to figure 1.6%  to 2% salt.   Hopes that helps.  :)

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

As Mini O says, the weight of salt is usually determined in ratio to the weight of flour used. Much of the water used in preparing the dough is lost during baking, so it is not a good idea to base the salt ratio with water. Inclusion of other ingredients raisins etc won't affect the calculation significantly. With experience you'll get to know if you prefer a little more or a little less salt with particular ingredient combinations, but best always to relate it back to the flour used.

Might be an idea to weigh each of your flours, to determine what you measure as a cup's worth (we all get different results depending on how we fill the cup)for each type of flour. Pays to do it several times and take an average. Also weigh some of your salt, probably better to weigh a tablespoon's worth. If you don't have scales borrow some for this exercise, you'll only need to do it once, and can continue with your preferred method of dough preparation.

[As an example:

When I fill a cup with white flour, I scoop and get approx 130g  and a tablespoon (15cc) of the salt I use weighs 20g (salt weight/tablespoon varies according to salt grain size).

2% of 130g is 2.6g, which is just under half a teaspoon (2.5cc).  (2.6/20 x 15 = 2cc). Just as Mini O indicated.]

The good news is, you can add salt as the last ingredient, so once you know how many cups of flour you have used to achieve the dough consistency you prefer, you can add the salt. Please note, you will notice a tightening of the dough when you add the salt, don't worry it will relax again. You might like to add a tiny amount of water, a tablespoon or so, to help you incorporate the salt evenly.

grind's picture
grind

I have always used 1 tsp of salt / cup of water many years ago.   That's when I was winging it and before I purchased a scale.

 

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

flour is not the only ingredient in doughs. Wouldn't it be more precise calculating salt in percentage respect to the dough weight rather than only respect to the flour? Even more so if there are other ingredients that contrast saltiness, such as eggs and sugar.

proth5's picture
proth5

US style baker's perecntages of all ingredients are calculated based on the flour weight.  So, if you have a lot of other ingredients (butter, eggs, nuts, etc) - you still express the salt as a percentage of the flour.  However you may adjust the percentage to account for the saltiness (or blandness) of other ingredients.

It's just a convention to follow so that we can understand each other.

Hope this helps.

Yeti's picture
Yeti

You may find the baker's percentage useful - 

Flour - 100%

Water - 60-70%

Salt - 1-2%

Yeast - 1% or less

 

An example of how you'd use this is 600g flour, 420ml water (70%), 12g salt (2%) and 6g of yeast. And there's your 70% hydration bread dough

Yeti's picture
Yeti

Or... If you want to reverse engineer it then for a 2% salt content - 12g for 600g of flour instance, then multiply 0.028 by your water content. E.g 0.028g multiplied by 420 will give 11.76g, which is in the right ballpark. This will only work for 70% hydration dough, however

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

When I started to bake bread for my family, I didn't have any recipes.  I took a specific soup bowl and filled it with water, then I went from there, much like you're doing.  Lots of guesswork.   This kind of hands on method is great for learning and training dough texture and feel however I always had difficulty with a repeatable salt amount and tended to stick with one standard dough texture.   The dough worked, the salt varied. 

After all the problems associated with running out of flour and having very wet dough, I shifted to putting the flour in first and then adding the water.  This changed my way of thought in a big way.  When I got a scale and started mixing up dough with a fixed amount of flour (also a new concept) it became easier to figure the salt.  With a scale, I was free of cups and teaspoon per cup.  I could easily figure the salt quickly while changing the bread ingredients around.  I started keeping a calculator, pencil and pad nearby.   I looked more at relationships of ingredients to flour and less afraid to change my basic method and recipe.   The scales gave me permission to explore!