The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Question RE:Adding Salt

Newbie's picture

Question RE:Adding Salt

I’m new here but an old woman (64 if you’re interested), and I’m attempting to bake a decent loaf. I’ve done a lot of reading and research but continue to be confused about when you add salt. I’ve seen Trevor Wilson’s YouTube videos (obviously with a great deal of envy) and am following his Champlain recipe today.

However, one of his videos shows adding salt with the starter. Long way around to ask “is salt added at different times in different recipes or is there a set stage in sourdough?” 

I probably didn’t explain this very well but any assistance is greatly appreciated.

Danni3ll3's picture

down enzymes and yeast so different people add it at different times depending on what they want to do.

If you plan to soak (autolyse) your flour overnight, then adding the salt at the beginning will help prevent the enzymes from degrading the gluten too much by the next day. 

If you want to develop the gluten for an hour or so and increase the extenbility of your dough, then leaving the salt out for that part is a good idea. I usually add the salt after the autolyse at the same time as the levain. 

You may want to experiment and see what works best for you and the method you are using. 

PS. 64 is NOT old. I am only 4 years behind you and I refuse to consider myself old! 😉

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Short answer: It varies.  The classic autolyse (cf. Raymond Calvel) lacks salt, since the purpose is to allow flour hydration and gluten development without oxidation caused by (over-)mixing.  Salt slows gluten development and competes with flour for water.  Many bakers follow Clavel (e.g., Robertson [Tartine]), withholding salt until the final mix.  Trevor Wilson's iconoclastic addition of salt to the initial mix works because his autolyse is long and importantly, initially cold (otherwise too long an autolyse can allow proteolysis - defeating the purpose), it allows time for gluten networks to form despite the presence of salt.

fwiw, I've adopted Trevor's salt practice recently because, (1) it works, (2) it's useful to chill autolysing dough in a warm summer kitchen and (3) it simplifies the final mix (just add levain).

Hopefully you'll soon be regretting that sign-on you chose :-)


Newbie's picture

This helps quite a bit. I see the way Trevor is adding salt to make it easier for people like me (and it’s comforting to know there are people close to my age 😀).  I know that adding salt affects when you want your dough to begin to come together. And, indeed, you can feel it and see it. It is complicated, which is not a revelation to site members. It’s great to have someone help you when you’re alone with these nagging questions. Thanks.

yozzause's picture

Hi Newbie im 67 for what thats worth and im sure there  are lots of members that have clocked up more of life miles along this journey, With regards to Salt addition the main thing is not to forget it. In my younger days when working in a small bread shop my colleague said that he wasn't sure if the dough he had just finished mixing had salt in it.  I invited him to taste it and we concluded that it had been omitted. Rather than wait to see the out come we elected to mix another dough, as adding the salt after the completion of mixing was fraught  with the strong chance of a poor result and lack of time then to make another dough. The Duff dough was bagged up and placed in the boot (trunk)of my mates car in the car park. The second dough was taste tested  at the end of mixing and my colleague was able to taste and discern the difference, so lesson learned there. 

After work we went to the car  and opened the boot (trunk) and were immediately swamped with a Sunami of hot wet and sticky dough that even filled our work boots, we were wearing shorts. A lady parked alongside  was highly amused by the event which was a cross between King Canute and getting the Genie back into the bottle.

Another lesson learned that day dont put  50kg mix of duff dough into the boot of a car parked in the hot Australian sun for a few hours.

i couldn't get over the heat of the dough, the mess that it made, the dough also went right up over the wheel arches to where the fender panels disappear to the door piller panels.

On another occasion when i was retiring  i was asked to run a Professional Development day for the chefs on all things bread, and on this occasion when one of the doughs the salt was being added last it was still on the bench. So i asked what do we do  Some said they would just add it and mix more,  others were not sure, as these guys usually work within tight time constraints  i said my course of action would be to mix another dough, possibly increasing the yeast a little to hurry things along and at least they would have reasonable quality bread rolls for their dinner service. BUT rather than chucking the dough i would consign it to the cool room and add a portion to subsequent batches of dough thus eliminating waste and the improving the bottom line for the boss. In fact Pate Fermentee is a method where a portion of old dough is used in subsequent mixes.  

A picture of the happy crew of Chef lecturers with yours truly and a great day was had by all ! 



Newbie's picture

Glad to know I’m not the only person in their 60s here. What I want to know is how did you get the dough out of your trunk (or do you say boot?)?

I finished the loaf and had a good crumb, waxy texture, but a low oven proof. And my dough from the time I mixed starter and began the bulk fermentation, my dough was extremely sticky. I was caught between wanting to fold more or not overwork it. I went with not overworking it. Still not satisfied but it’s only my fourth loaf.

yozzause's picture

It was a real mess for a few days but as it dried in the hot weather it was able to be flaked off. Yes we use the term boot of the car here and the UK too!  The expansion in the oven during the initial part of the bake is referred to as Oven Spring usually or kick. Its pretty hard to overwork the dough if you are doing folds, Only your 4th loaf don't forget  Every journey starts with a single step!

clazar123's picture

Youth has no age limit

I decided I am still youthful at 64. Not that I'm above pulling the "old" card when it suits my needs (like putting a suitcase in the overhead bin on a plane). I have found that thinking and saying "I'm too old for this" actually increases my sense of feeling old. I have re-framed that self talk by either removing it or re-phrasing it to my decision not to participate. I feel physically better for it.

There are some great explanations for when to add salt- I would just be re-iterating. In brief-short method with a shorter autolyze, no autolyze, add it after developing the dough to windowpane. Long autolyze, cold retard- add at the beginning.

Bake delicious fun!

yozzause's picture

Recognition of age has many pleasant surprises and satisfying outcomes . Recently when we were coming out from the Toulouse (France) metro the escalator wasn't working but i stepped  on to it in case it was one of those as demand use ones, as i turned back two young men saw it wasn't working  and ran up the adjacent flight of steps, upon reaching the top one man ran back down and carried my suitcase for me to the top for me. it took me completely by suprise to which my wife said its because you are an old man. Either way it was very nice of him and even better that he didn't run off with the suitcase. Just an after thought!