The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Use of salt

pops's picture

Use of salt

Any imput on decreasing amount of salt used in sourdough bread that doesn't have a negative affect.

aroma's picture

....just 1% salt with no issues -and it's Low Sodium salt at that

Abe's picture

have no salt at all.

The most obvious reason for salt in bread is for taste. With this in mind you can go as low as you wish. However there are other purposes for salt such as it tightens the gluten structure thus giving the dough strength. This in turn will give your dough more volume.

jbovenbread's picture

The best reference on the function of salt in making bread that I have found (and the only comprehensive look at it as well)  is on page 16 of the book ‘ARTISAN BREADS At Home with the Culinary Institute of America’ 2010 by Kastel and Charles.  According to this source salt adds flavor, strengthens the gluten, controls the activity rate of yeast and helps brown the crust.  They note that below 1% to 1.5% the yeast will ferment faster, you will have tacky dough and the baked loaf will lack colour.  Above 2.8% to 3.2% the dough will be tighter and yeast will ferment more slowly.  This leaves a rather small useful range they suggest of 2% to 2.3%, which would generally translate into a daily salt limit of about 8% per serving (based on a daily limit of 2000 mg).

I guess you could say that I have become more than a little interested in salt content in food and bread over the past few years, and am becoming more so as the time goes on.  I’ve noted salt values ranging from a low of 1% daily value (dv) all the way up to 36% dv on nutrition labels with a rough average in the range 8% through 16%.  Face it, we’re addicted to salt and this is consistently supported by the restaurant and food manufacturing industries.  We want it, so we get it!

As for your question ... how little can you get by with? ..... none.  That is if you wish to trade off the positive effects of salt and some taste.  I’ve read that saltless Tuscan bread came about because of a salt tax in place in Italy at one time.

What I’ve come to use is on the low end of the scale .... around 1.5% although this can vary, and have generally been able to produce some acceptable bread, at least the positive comments far outweigh the negative.  When I try a new recipe I generally use the amount of salt called for the first time and vary (downward) the salt content in future batches.  At the moment I tend to bake once a week or so using a masonry oven I constructed more than 10 years ago, if possible.  I generally start with a relatively firm sourdough starter and add 100 g of it to a poolish (1200 g water, sd starter, bread flour and whole wheat flour, 1/8 tsp instant yeast) to produce a 2400 g poolish that sits on the counter overnight.  Salt is added after autolyse is most instances.  The volumes I work with generally yield 5 to 6 loaves .... of which we give away 2 or three loaves per batch.

Here’s a recipe for what it’s worth .....

Buttermilk Bread with Toasted Wheat Germ

Poolish .... started in evening and left on the counter at room temperature overnight which should be very well developed in the morning

1200 g        slightly warm water
  200 g        well developed more or less firm starter
  600 g        bread flour
  400 g        all purpose whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp        instant yeast

Final dough

2400 g        poolish
  1 ½ c        1 % buttermilk
     4 tb        canola oil
   3/4 c        lightly toasted wheat germ
   2 tsp        instant yeast
     2 tb        honey
      7 c        all purpose flour plus a little bench flour
    2 tb         salt after 20 minute rest (baker’s % ... 1.54%) (daily % / 50 g slice 2.35%) 

                   Hydration approx 75%.  Baked in pans in outdoor oven @ 430 F to 460 F

Tyler Dean's picture
Tyler Dean

 Has anyone considered different types of salt? Typical table salt has been highly refined and processed. This strips it of "impurities" (minerals..which we want). Iodine, as well as an anti-caking agent, is usually added in the process. How would these added ingredients affect the bread? I would assume negatively, as they affect our health negatively and yeast is a living thing, susceptible. If one's worried about iodine deficiency, there are natural sources which should be prefered over iodized salt:

Different types of salt including sea salt, Himalayan pink, celtic, fluer de sel, and other mineral rich salts are absolutely far superior in both taste and health. Skeptics say there's such a miniscule difference with these "jazzed up" salts when compared to table salt, claiming the amount of minerals is so minute that it makes no difference, but I beg to differ: it's the lack of processing and the absence of the added ingredients that makes natural salt a better choice (and the environmental impacts),  rather than the presence of extra minerals (not to say those trace minerals don't add up after years of consumption, kind of like well water vs tap). I personally recommend switching to a natural salt instead of lowering the amount of salt in your bread. You see, in turn using the same amount of natural salts, gives you less sodium, because there is more mineral and less actual salt. I've been using Himalayan and avoiding iodized for a few years and my health is great. However something about Himalayan is that it's a finite resource, which is beginning to bug my conscience. I'd like to switch to a salt that is more sustainable, while still having a lovely bright color that I've grown fond of. I would use sea salt or kosher but I really enjoy the color over white. Using the pink salt, when I cut into my bread, there are pink and red fleks. You know how cool it looks? Some are even sparkly. As for black salts, these are typically made black with the addition of charcoal. I wonder how this would affect bread. I know the flavor would be great and smoky, especially if paired with sesame!

Bottom line - I firmly believe that using the higher amount of salt in your bread can really benefit the end result, mainly it's structure. It allows me to make a high hydration dough hold together better. So if you're afraid to use too much salt, either because it doesn't taste good or for health benefits, make the switch to a natural salt. Trust me, the pink salt tastes much less salty. There's something so fake about table salt to me now after years without it. Let me know what you guys think!