The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

when to add salt?

  • Pin It
Pablo's picture
Pablo

when to add salt?

I seem to have read different methods of when to add the salt to the recipe. Some say to do the autolyse without the salt (or the poolish or the yeast), some say to mix everything together and wait 1/2 an hour. Way back a thousand years ago when I read the Tasajara Bread Book I seem to dimly recall that there was a warning that salt retarded or killed yeast. It was always added later. When I was using the bread machine I put everything together and the dough came out fine. Thoughts? Thanks for any info. Paul

carltonb's picture
carltonb

From my experience and education it depends. When you autolyse I always add the salt later. If I have a very long ferment 2 hours+ I will also add the salt later, at least after the initial mixing. On short ferments I will add the salt in the begining. Even with a straight dough I may add the salt after the first 3 minutes.

 I also use different salts in my doughs as well. I have used regualr table style, kosher style, fleur de sel, and many other flavors and varieties. I find that some impart a very different tast.

 

Carlton Brooks CEPC, CCE Mesa, Arizona

Pablo's picture
Pablo

When you say a ferment of 2+ hours, I'm not sure what you mean about adding the salt later. Do you mean you add it after the whole 2 hour ferment? You're talking about fermenting the entire dough, I assume, not just a preferement. Thanks a lot for the info. Paul

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Pablo,

It depends on the recipe your using. I had the same quandry early on regarding the discussion regarding salt and its effect on the health of the yeast. Experience has proven that for artisan sourdough it's required to be added at the same time as the dough is mixed. The following will help clarify this.

I use a firm starter with no salt to the build sourdough. If you're not using sea salt it is really worth trying. In my usual bake the firm starter is divided up into smaller pieces placed in the mixer bowl and whisked with water till completely dissolved and foamy. The salt is added and completely mixed in. The dough hook is then attached and the addition of flour begins. The resulting dough is then allowed to rest for 20 minutes, after which, it's kneaded by hand till ready. It is then placed under refrigeration till the next day before the loaf forming, proofing and baking finish the process.

Wild-Yeast

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Thanks Wild-Yeast. I'm just getting some starter going, so sourdough will be my next adventure. I'm amazed and thrilled at how much technique has to do with bread baking. Same ingredients yield vastly different results with different techniques. My latest attempt is about an hour away from going in the oven. Dreams of perfection! Paul (aka Pablo)

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In active pre-ferments, such as sourdough, poolish and biga, salt is in general not needed.  So, don't add it.

 

In passive pre-ferments, such as an autolyse, salt is not needed if you will use the autolyse within 12 hours of mixing.  If you will hold the autolyse longer than 12 hours before using it, the salt will help slow the enzymatic actions in the autolyse.  Without salt, it will self-digest too far and turn gray.  You might add most of the salt called for in the bread and then reduce the salt in the final dough to account for this.

 

In final doughs, I have two recipes that called for late addition of the salt. I found they worked better with early addition.  According to Calvel, the salt acts as an anti-oxidant and helps prevent the bleaching of the flour.  Without salt added until late, the unbleached flour (you ARE using unbleached flour aren't you?) will tend to self-bleach and lose the creamy color it should have and verge on the ultra white of lifeless mass market bread.   I always add the salt at the start of the mix!

 

Mike

 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the info. Yes, I AM using unbleached flour (organic). I'm actually suffering because I just read about parchment paper and it's coated with silicon and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Anyway, I much prefer to add the salt first because I have more confidence that it is thoroughly mixed in with the flour and water that way. If I wait until I have a dough consistency before adding the salt I'm afraid it may not totally incorporate. Some bakers are quite specific about not adding any salt or fat (not that I use oil anyway) during the autolyse phase. I was wondering how important that was and it doesn't seem to be, so that's great.

Paul

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

One of the problems with talking to hobbyist bakers is they often use the same terms in different ways.

 

Autolyse isn't a phase, it's a process.

 

In an autolyse, water and flour are mixed and allowed to stand for at least 30 minutes, and as long as 8 to 10 hours.  (If you are going to let it stand longer, adding salt becomes a good idea.)  The point of the autolyse is to let the flour get wet and to start the enzymatic action on the flour.  The enzymes are already there.

 

This has two advantages.  It helps unlock the flavor of the flour, giving a more flavorful bread.  It also makes the final dough easier to mix and knead.

 

Some people call the time from when the dough is mixed until it starts to do something an autolyse.  It's not.  When you add active components, such as a sourdough starter or yeast, the dough is active and things are happening that don't happen in an autolyse.  Some people say Calvel indicated that if you use an instant yeast, the time from when the dough is mixed until the yeast becomes active is like an autolyse.  I didn't read that in The Taste of Bread.  However, even if he said it, there are many differences between the mixed dough and an autolyse.  The instant yeast will be active in 15 minutes, so it is a very short state - too short in my opinion.  And with the salt and other ingredients in the dough, the enzymatic action is slowed which makes the short time much to short to be a real autolyse.

 

Anyway, by definition, an autolyse is just flour and water.  If you add other things, it's not an autolyse.  It may be good, but it's not an autolyse. 

Mike

 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Thanks Mike, that's very clear. When you are autolysing? your dough, do you add all the flour? I'm just wondering about how thoroughly the salt (and yeast) will get mixed in after the autolyse. Especially with the folding rather than kneading techniques. Is that an issue at all for you?

 

KosherBaker's picture
KosherBaker

Hi Paul.

Most of the breads baked by folks around here :) are very high hydration breads. 65% and above. And dough like that is much close to pancake batter consistency than a stiff ball of pasta dough. So incorporating things into the dough like that is actually not a problem at all.

Rudy

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Many commercial artisan bakeries start each shift by making a large batch of autolyse.  It's used throughout the shift to make bread.  By the time the mixer (the person who runs a machine of the same name) is ready for the first batch, the autolyse has had it's minimum of 30 minutes and is ready to go.

 The same general approach works at home.  I start out making my autolyse (which works well with straight process doughs, sponges, poolish, biga, or sourdough... in fact every baking process I know of) and by the time I've gathered the rest of the ingredients and I'm ready to make my first bread, the autolyse is ready.  If I'm only making one batch, I'll just leave the autolyse in the mixer's bowl and add the other ingredients to the bowl.

 

As to mixing, I usually don't add more than about 1/3 of the flour through the autolyse, and no more than 1/3 of the flour through other pre-ferments, so there is at least 1/3 of the total flour to be added.  Quite often there is some additional liquid to.  As a result, whether one is using a mixer or a stretch and fold, the ingredients will be mixed.   And that's true whether the dough is wet or stiff.

 

Hope that helps,

Mike

 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

That's pretty much what I've evolved to at this point. I reserve some flour and mix the salt with that. I mix the autolyse with the preferment and the last bit of water with the proofed yeast in it and it's a bit wetter than the final dough. Then I add the flour/salt mix last. As of this moment I've been doing that whole initial mix with the mixer and then some stretch and fold later to degas.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When I got started in the mid 70's, I read an article that said the new active dry yeast was so reliable there was no need to proof it.  So, I stopped.  And never looked back.

 

While the manufacturers suggest proofing active dry yeast, I haven't found it at all necessary.  If I am using a recipe that calls for proofing the yeast, I just omit any sugar called for, and add the water, yeast and flour (if any) to the recipe.  Works like a champ.

 

With the newer instant dry yeasts, even the manufacturers suggest against proofing the yeast.  Instant dry yeast starts to work more quickly than active dry yeast, but it is more sensitive to temperatures, so it is usually added to the flour.

 

All in all, I don't proof commercial bakers yeast, and suggest you don't either,

 

Mike 

Pablo's picture
Pablo

Thanks yet again, Mike. Actually I'm moving toward sourdough so this will be moot for awhile. Can you point me to a basic sourdough recipe? By basic I mean flour, water, salt and starter. I'm planning on a 70% hydration. I tried a 75% hydration (not sourdough) batch today and it's just too sticky for my current skill/knowledge level. I want to make an open crumb baguette or whatever a long, rounded, crispy crusted loaf is called.

I'm not sure about fermenting/retarding/proofing times and sequences. I'm not wed to recipes, but I'd like a bit more guidance to start. I had figured to do everything including shaping the loaves and then put them in the 'fridge for 20 hours or so. Then I read some more and saw doing the primary fermentation in the 'fridge and then doing the loaves and baking. Suggestions?

Also reading I see that most home 'fridges are too cold. I'm remembering I think I may be able to pick up a little student 'fridge that someone isn't using and I could set that at a better temp for retardation. Any suggestions there?

Thanks for all the great info.

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Mike,

I really appreciated your addressing and explaining this topic. It seems to me to have been muddied and muddled by so many writers, even my man Hamelman calls it an autolyse when the mixed dough (with sourdough in it) rests for 20-60 minutes before adding in the salt.

I wanted to ask you if you thought another benefit of the autolyse, as you define it and as I accept your definition, isn't development of gluten? I thought this was part of the rationale for autolyse, since gluten starts to align itself immediately once flour meets water. Hamelman says that the gluten-building (in his version of autolyse) allows for less mixing and thus less oxidation of the dough.

(As a complete aside, Peter Reinhart, in BBA, includes a recipe he called Pain a l'Ancienne. It was based on a recipe he sort of borrowed from a French baker, Gosselin by name, who retarded his baguette autolyse overnight. BTW I don't think Reinhart called it autolyse. Reinhart's version of the recipe, however, includes the yeast in the beginning mix and then retards the dough immediately. That always struck me as a fundamentally different process. I see in his multigrain book he was challenged on this and this led to some kind of epiphany.)

Anyway, thanks for helping us out on this.

Soundman (David)