The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread without salt?

  • Pin It
Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Bread without salt?

I never cook anything with salt.  As far as I am concerned, salt is an at-the-table addition.  One uses far less of it when it is on the surface instead of being inside.

However, there are cases where I suspect that there is a chemistry reason to cook with salt.

Does anyone know if bread needs salt for reasons other than taste/flavor?

 

ericreed's picture
ericreed

Salt does much more than add flavor for bread. King Arthur Flour has a run down here.

isand66's picture
isand66

There is usually only about 1.5 to 2% of your flour weight in salt.  That little amount is not going to hurt you and makes a huge difference in the taste not to mention the development of the dough.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

But I bet you wouldn't like it. Try searching for Tuscan breads and you may find then. 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

I just want to know what it dies that I many manipulate it to my taste.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

I have been to the KA site but found it lacking as with many other cooking sites.

Once again, I see a run of information without any substantiation.  The King Arthur Flour web site is typical in saying a lot without saying anything.  Maybe someone can fill in some intelligence in what they are saying.

"It makes a huge difference in taste".  Ok, what difference?  I made croissants with out salt but then sprinkled a half dozen grains on them before baking.  I was told that there was a lot of salt in them. They were pleasantly surprised when I told them what I had done. So in that, no it did not make any difference in taste when I did not put salt in the dough.

OTOH, Aside from taste of salt, does it make any difference in the structure of the dough? Does it chemically change the properties of yeast, flour, and "yeast fart" (beer flavor) ?

In the suggested King Arthur link, they make claims that salt "provides flavor" 
No, salt has no flavor, it has taste. Trace minerals in salt give it flavor but no discussion is there to suggest talk about trace minerals.

Does salt actually increase the fermentation flavor?  I have yet to see this in writing not have proven it myself.  Would my croissants have had more beer flavor had I added the salt?  I would think that someone experienced in bread might be able to guide me on this as I experiment.

"Salt has a retarding effect on the yeast."  Again, does this mean that more rise time would be needed if one wanted to reduce salt?  It also says "If there is no salt, the yeast will ferment too quickly." Unfortunately they say nothing of what the result is if it does ferments "too quickly".  Am I going to get pinned across the room against the wall when I open the oven as it did for Lucy?

Also "...we should note that a careful usage of yeast, control of dough temperature, and the type, maturity, and amount of preferment used are better tools for fermentation control." and then all they say is "Salt quantity, as we have noted, should stay within the 1.8–2% range."

This is all airy persiflage as far as I am concerned.  With each statement they profess, I am stuck saying "Well, ... To what result?"  So what if it changes the fermentation time? What happens if it does?  This is not uncommon for a lot of discussion like this.

Can any one here fill me in about the results in tinkering with the amount of salt in bread?

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

that means it slows down fermentation. Without the salt (which inhibits yeast activity because it robs the yeasts of water) the dough ferments quickly. That in turn reduces flavor. Like when you ferment at 90 degrees. Too warm too fast and too flavorless. 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

And if you like the results, that is all that matters. As for the croissants, I assume it was unsalted butter you used?  If not, that would help explain why they were salty. 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

I added no salt to the recipe.

I believe she was reacting to the attack of the very few grains of salt that met the tongue in force and thought that the entire croissant had that much salt.  Granted, they were very small croissants.....

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

If you added salt to the dough you probably wouldn't have had the complaint.  I don't think you salt bread to taste and maybe this is why. 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

She was pleasantly surprised that she could eat something that the thought was high in salt yet actually consumed very little.  I am thinking that if I added it to the dough then i would have had to add much more than i did by adding it tot he top instead to have the same result.

So far, when it comes to changing the amount of salt, I see no support that it changes the flavor/aroma of bread other than getting a salty result or not.

Now, does salt causing a change in rise times or texture change the aroma of bread?

 

 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I think if you are baking for your own consumption and enjoyment and you are happy without salt I would say bake without salt.  If on the other hand you are trying to sell your baked goods you will have to take into consideration what tastes your customers expect and want.

I have never purposely baked bread with out salt but when I have forgotten to add salt I found the bread to be flat and the crust did not colour properly.   I don't think we ate more than a slice.

Gerhard

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

It is really not a point of wanting more or less salt.  I am exploring the consequences of higher or lower salt amounts used.

If salt taste is the only factor, I wonder if a customer would care about where/how the salt was there as long as the perception of salt was present.  Providing the bread flavor/aroma was the same, I am figuring that a few grains of salt on the top could replace much larger quantity of salt in the recipe as I discovered with my croissants.

Granted, I only have volunteer consumers of my bread experiments but if salt on top is as good, if not better than salt within, would that not be preferred?

 

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Just bake your bread without salt. If you don't hate it, don't add salt. most people won't enjoy it, but that is no reason to add the salt if you are the one eating it.  Heck, they sell unsalted potato chips and unsalted pretzels. Many people find them tasteless. But as with many things, taste is acquired. 

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

Yes, it does change the aroma.

If you're interested in the science behind baking than I heartily recommend food scientist Paula Figoni's 'How Baking Works'. In the chapter on the sensory properties of food she says:

"Salt and sugar both affect the perception of smells, probably by changing the rate at which small molecules evaporate. Sometimes it takes only a small amount of salt or sugar to change and improve the aroma and overall flavor of food products."

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

If you ever wondered what would happen if you added or left out one egg from a cake recipe, for example,  then here you will find the answers in easy to understand terms.

Unfortunately I lost the book but can guarantee that I will find it as soon as I purchase a new one.  (-:

 

Jon OBrien's picture
Jon OBrien

Guaranteed, best way to find anything.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

Obviously, the KA site isn't meant to be a scientific treatise. I assumed you were just looking for a general list of the things salt does. I'm not sure where to find the info you want, possibly the book "Bread Science" has it.

As far as flavor, salt is universally recognize to enhance the flavor of pretty much any food. At appropriate amounts it doesn't taste salty in food, it just makes it taste more like whatever it is. It's pretty easy to observe that effect yourself, but the contrast is most stark with fairly plain dishes. I'm always amazed when I make chicken broth how little flavor there is before seasoning with salt.

Generally, breads that go from mixing to oven in 3 hours or less will have poor taste and not keep well. Longer fermentation produces better tasting bread, since most of the flavor components of bread come from the activity of bacteria producing lactic and acetic acid. Those bacteria take longer than yeast to get going. Up to a point, the acid produced by the bacteria give flavor and extra strength to the dough, but too much acid will weaken the gluten and not taste that good. The gluten can also be overstretched and break if too much gas is produced from the yeast, collapsing the loaf. Lastly, if too many of the sugars in the starch are eaten by the bacteria and yeast, the crust won't brown properly and flavor will also suffer. So all those factors have to balance out and fit into whatever schedule/timing the baker needs it to happen.

Small changes in the amount of salt probably won't have much of an effect, though, say going from 2% to 1.8%. Also in breads containing more than around 12% sugar, salt is often reduced as sugar slows fermentation as well.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

There is a Tuscan bread which is salt free.  David Esq. alluded to it in his post.  The bread is used with salty cheeses and in bread soup to which salt is added.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

the Tuscan bread?   Bite for bite you would go from some salt to none and I would like this.  Would the beer taste in the bread itself or are we only talking about the taste of salt?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

without it, your recipe can be fast or slow but rarely the same.  Small changes or variations at the beginning of your bread making method can be exaggerated (good or bad) so that eventually rise times will change from one batch to another.  Salt adds stability, it regulates the rate of yeast growth.  It tightens protein links, gluten bonds in the dough.  This stability leads to more predictable rise times even with slight changes in temp, hydration and whole grain flours. 

If this is a continuation of the pizza thread then put a low amount of salt in your pizza dough and let it ferment well but still has some spring and elasticity left in it.  Then make your pizza, you don't have to be so concerned that it won't rise like a bread because it's for pizza.  Get as close to over-proofing as you dare.  Then you got your beer flavour.

 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Since I do not make bread with any regularity, if I was not concerned about rise times, would any of this affect the beer aroma in bread?  How does tight, or loose protein links or gluten bond affect the taste/aroma of bread?

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

therefore sweet foods taste sweeter. Salt does not increase flavor. It increases the perception of it by reducing a competitive force.  This is how it "releases the flavor of food".  Some could argue that there is no difference between the two.  My quest is to know how salt, changes the chemistry of food and in bread, I guess that this is all in the fermentation.  That said, let's remove the taste of salt from the discussion.

Low salt, fast fermentation: Does it follow that fast fermentation means more fermentation/minute causing less rise time needed?  How does this affect the beer flavor in bread?

High Salt, Slow fermentation: Does it follow that slow fermentation, means less fermentation/minute causing more rise time needed? How does this affect the beer flavor in bread?

Can fast fermentation in a short rise time be the same as slow fermentation in a longer rise time?

 

 

gerhard's picture
gerhard

But it is not just fermentation that develops the flavour and texture of the bread, you have bacteria and enzymes that do not work faster just because your yeast is working faster.

Gerhard

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

However, suppose we allow for a long rise time.

A) Lower salt, high yeast rate, more punch downs.  The dough would have a lower salt taste.
B) Higher salt, low yeast rate, fewer punch downs.  The dough would have a higher salt taste.

If it is the same amount of time for each, allowing for the same bacteria/enzyme activity, will the aroma of the baked bread be different?.

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Download his Bread book, from amazon for a free 7 day trial and read all about it. 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

If you could make a better bread with less salt, it would be done. It is not as though bakers want to spend more money on ingredients because they have so much cash  floating around. 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

nothing would ever get invented. 

This might explain why so much bad bread is being sold.
This might explain why I want better bread.

Saving money is not the issue.
Baking bread with less salt is not the issue either. 
Understanding what makes bread with a great aroma is.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I think bad bread gets sold because North America has been trained to eat flavourless and textureless bread and many will only buy the cheapest food irregardless of quality.  I agree with the previous comments that if you taste salt you are using to much it is more to balance the taste.  Vanilla is much the same in most recipes vanilla is added to reinforce other flavours rather draw attention to itself.

Gerhard 

ericreed's picture
ericreed

What I know is that the first fermentation period is primarily about developing the flavor and dough characteristics, ie, extensibility and elasticity, that you want. The general minimum time given for a 'straight dough' to develop properly is around 4-5 hours bulk fermentation, followed by an hour-ish final rise (Calvel, "The Taste of Bread"). Salt amounts are constrained by what most people think tastes good, which is around 1.8-2%, so there's a limit to how much we can slow or speed things up using salt.

Higher salt levels are sometimes used when it's a tasteless commercial loaf of bread that they are trying to jazz up. The highest level I've seen is in an artisan bread is Lahey's No Knead Pizza dough at 3%. I assume he chose this number because his dough ferments for 18 hours and it's to help slow things down, but I find it to be too salty.  (Also, some bread with lots of whole grains may have a high salt percent to compensate for their addition since the % is based just off the flour.)

The majority of flavor in artisan bread at least is from bacteria, as I mentioned. (Not counting enriched doughs.) Some flavor is contributed by the residual alcohol from the yeast, which I assume is what you are detecting as a beer taste. If you cut open warm bread fresh from the oven, you might get a big whiff of evaporating alcohol. (But don't, most hearth breads need 2-3 hours to cool for their flavor and texture to fully develop.) My guess is that the salt isn't going have a huge impact on alcohol production by yeast in the quantities we are talking about, but it may add to the aroma enough that it makes it seem like it does.

ericreed's picture
ericreed

I found this study, which suggests to me the most important thing about salt in bread, outside of flavor, is how it affects gluten and oxidization.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

One point in the conclusion is interesting:  "These results revealed some new findings in the biochemical effects of salt in bread-making, which could break new ground in the bread-making industry."

In short, it proves what has been said here: More salt, faster fermentation, larger rise in a given time.  Maybe there is a study linking salt and fermentation speed with the beer aroma.

 

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

...I once made bread from a recipe by a well-known baker who used much less salt than I would normally use, and the bread was very bland, almost blah.  Apart from taste, the salt does retard the action of yeast to the extent that if you leave out the salt altogether, you might end up with an 'I-Love-Lucy' scenario, with your bread dough rising and spreading out uncontrollably.

suave's picture
suave

Just try it.  Bake one without salt and see if you can tolerate it.  If you can - just roll with it.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

I did not notice it when I left it out of the bread.
If you like salt, why not leave out the bread? (-:

suave's picture
suave

I did not notice it when I left it out of the bread.

So what's the problem then?

 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

The discussion is about what the salt does in bread. 

I am exploring to see if salt content changes the beery aroma of fresh baked bread.
Several here thought I was talking about salt for taste.

Initially, in another discussion here, I started by asking what the difference is between bread dough and pizza dough and then it became a science experience based on salt content with thought provoking discussion.

So far, aside from changing the salty taste, the only thing concluded here is that it changes the rise time,
It does not change the time for bacteria (lactic and acetic acid), and enzymes to do their thing.
It may have something to do with texture, stability, gluten,...

suave's picture
suave

In the amounts salt used in bread it really does not do anything besides making it (more) palatable.  All this talk about slowing doing fermentation or significantly altering texture, yes, it's all possible, but when much higher proportions are used.  I mean, when people forget to put salt in, no one ever says "I noticed my dough was rising too fast", or "I noticed my dough was too slack".  For the most part it's "I cut off a slice, bit in, and OMG!  What the hell happened?  I could not! I did!". 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

There is an old Czechoslovakian tradition, as is with many other cultures, to break bread and dip it in salt as an invitation for friendship.  I have no idea if it is from salted bread dough or not.

In your scenario, would it correct the problem by simply sprinkling some salt on the unsalted bread?  OTOH, did the mix require salt for reasons other than salt taste?

As I mentioned earlier, I baked croissants without salt and just before baking I sprinkled scarcely a few grains of salt onto them.  At least one taster, mentioned that I had used a lot of salt.  This is only because the immediate attack of the tongue with salty on the first bite and she perceived that there was a lot more salt than what there actually was.  (I also use unsalted butter.)  She now has stopped cooking with salt all together and uses sprinkles as needed after the fact.  It is a far lower salt intake than when cooking with salt.

 

 

 

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Two entire pages devotes to salt. Small print.  Read it. Find out why salt is used in baking, how it tightens gluten (allows better volume), impacts crust coloring, impacts color, flavor and aroma, as well as taste. 

Borrow the book. Read what you like. Bake. 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

since salt impacts fermentation and fermentation impacts aroma, it is is safe to assume that salt has an impact on aroma as well as taste. 

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Does it have increase fermentation? Decrease Fermentation? Other?

 

ericreed's picture
ericreed

I ran across another reason salt helps the flavor of bread. Carotenoids in the dough give a "wheaty aroma" (Hamelman "Bread"), and are destroyed by oxygen. Salt added at the beginning of the mixing process slows that process down. Hamelman says "When salt is added during the later stages of dough mixing, it is detrimental to the carotendoids, which become more oxidized, yielding bread with a whiter crumb and less aroma.

Also, salt does retard bacterial growth and therefore acid production as well. (Otherwise salt wouldn't work very well as a preservative in other applications like pickling.)

ccsdg's picture
ccsdg

This is my second biggest reason for adding salt (the first being to balance the sweet/salty/sour flavour profile). Not sure where it was I read that salt is an antioxidant, same as the reason you'd use an autolyse to hydrate the flour instead of mixing at the beginning (less oxidation).

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

'Carotenoids in the dough give a "wheaty aroma"'.   Salt retards the destruction of these miracle flavorizors...

Another vote to have salt.
We are getting somewhere there.... (-:

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

How is this done?  During Kneading?

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Is there a time between adding and mixing the dough?
I wonder how ther would be a difference if there is no delay.

Interesting still...

 

ccsdg's picture
ccsdg

I add it to the autolyse, others probably do differently. This would slow down fermentation right at the outset, but I allow for this with more levain. After all, mixing is what oxidises the flour, so I don't do any significant degree of mixing until I've added salt. 

MarkS's picture
MarkS

I made some rye bread a few weeks back and forgot to add salt. I let it rise like normal. It was a dense brick. It wasn't so much flavorless as nasty. It went in the trash.

flour-power's picture
flour-power

As I am writing this, my dough is rising, and I forgot to add the salt. There is, however, salted butter in the mixture, so there may still be hope.  Otherwise, there's one for the birds.

flour-power's picture
flour-power

Nothing explosive to report. A forum thread here, "Salt - Why Bother?" brings me up to speed on my  salt omission query.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

What results?

Now that I am back to making my own, I am going to see results for myself.
My original discussion was to see if salt enhanced the "Beer flavor" in bread.

 

flour-power's picture
flour-power

This loaf will not go to feed the birds. Tasting in three hours. For now, I can only look..

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Have you left out salt in previous bread recipes?  What is the result?  Why do the Birds say about it?  Of course, if your loaf turns out good, then you will not really be sure if the salted butter came to the rescue or if you actually did not forget to add the salt.

MarkS mentioned that salt was left out but only said that it affected the flavor.  Does it affect the rise or crumb?  What if you salted the bread when it is served or served it with something salty?

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Even play dough has salt in it. I think it is safe to assume that the salt is not added for flavor when making play dough, but is added for "crumb" and "handling"

Emerogork, it has been a week since you posted the question. Have you baked a loaf without salt yet?

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

I have been cheating by purchasing frozen dough for experimental purposes. I learned a different way to cook the dough.  Preheat to oven to 550 and for an additional half hour to be sure the pizza stone is charged.  Then place the dough in a skillet and then into the oven.  Turn the oven off. I wanted to test this idea and not have my own variables influence the test.

I plan to experiment in no-salt dough eventually.

Emerogork's picture
Emerogork

Last post was 6 years ago. I wonder if I will get a response.