The Fresh Loaf

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Serious confusion about yeast and salt

Cooky's picture

Serious confusion about yeast and salt

Forgive yet another newbie question, but I'm massively uncertain about the order in which to add yeast and salt to the dough (after autolyzing flour and water.)

Every piece of expert advice I can find confuses me. Some say yeast, then poolish, then mix, then salt. Some say poolish, then yeast, then mix, then salt. Some say salt first, yeast later. Some say throw everything in together and mix away. Some sources say *never* let the yeast and salt touch one another without mixing first, some say it doesn't matter. Can anybody thriow some useful real-world light on this subject?

Thanx for any insights.





cognitivefun's picture

A poolish doesn't have salt in it.

But finished dough generally will use salt. Salt retards the action of the yeast, improves flavor and makes the dough easier to handle.

If you mix dough you will be adding salt. Some recipes call for adding salt after you mix the dough and just before you bulk ferment.

I have never bothered with this. I just add salt to the dough when I mix it. If I have made a poolish first, that will be added to the dough mixture that includes flour, salt and liquid.

Pedro Pan's picture
Pedro Pan

Salt kills/retards yeast so the timing of its introduction is important with natural leaven. 

Commercially produced yeast like instant and active dry yeasts are concentrated and strong enough to not be adversely affected by salt in these quantities.  Since sour dough cultures are less concentrated and usually take longer to establish themselves in the dough they need to be well activated before being mixed with salt.

Definitely your 'mother' SD culture and the sponge you make from the 'mother' never have salt in them and are proofed (allowed to double) as starter before being exposed to salt. 

Can't leave it out, bread without salt... cardboard.

breadnerd's picture

I read Raymond Calvel's "The Taste of Bread" this summer. It's pretty much the most technical book I've read on the subject, and when he discussed the addition of salt admitted that it made almost no difference when added later.

When I took a class with Didier Rosada, he made a point of measureing the salt into a seperate container. I asked why, and he said "so you know you didn't forget to add it". I had a bad strech of forgetting the salt in bread recipes so I took the advice!


Anyway, I generally add it with the rest of the ingredients and have no trouble either. Ift seems like something you could experiment on when you're at an advanced stage and looking for nuanced differences in your loaves, but for the most part you (and your willing taste testers) will not notice.