Salt In Bread - Is It Really Necessary?

salt in bread
Does bread dough need salt? Really? If you're trying to reduce your salt intake, this article is for you. Find out what salt does for your bread and make an informed decision about how much, if any, to use.

Why Real Bakers Use Salt

I haven't tried very hard to find a bread recipe without salt but I can safely say that conventional bread recipes all include salt, and sometimes, lots of it.

Indeed, my Formula For Great Dough includes 2% salt - this at the advice of an expert baker who taught me to make excellent bread.

And, guess what? It's not just about the flavour.

Salt plays a role in the fermentation process by restricting the action of yeast. Allegedly - and we'll come to my opinions on this later - unchecked yeast would produce big, unwieldy bubbles of gas, unsupportable by the dough, leading to collapse and terrible texture. The salt, curbing the enthusiastic gas-production of the yeast, actually helps to improve the texture of the cooked loaf.

See? There is a practical reason why salt is required in bread dough.

Although...

On The Other Hand

My mum baked bread for years without salt. It worked out fine.

Following suit, my early bread-making was also without salt. Sure, my success was hitty-missy (that's a technical term meaning sometimes I had lid-lifting issues and sometimes it turned out ok) but that was before I had The Formula and The Master Method, so lots of things were probably going wrong.

The point is, it is perfectly possible to make a decent loaf without salt.

Try it! Take any of my recipes and make it without the salt. (And please let me know if you prove me wrong).

But The Flavour....

Personally, I like the flavour of some salt in my dough. Having baked with salt, the dough now seems slightly bland without it. My husband feels this even more keenly. He notices (and complains) if I reduce the salt too much.

I have no doubt that we could become accustomed to bread with a less salty flavour and, one day, we may do so. For the moment, I bake with salt.

You can, of course, adjust the salt to your own requirements.

If you're trying to cut out salt, by all means, do so. Reducing the salt by degrees, each time you bake, would help you to monitor the results and acclimatise your taste-buds.

Despite the science-sounding information about why salt is required in bread dough, I suggest that it is not so much 'required' as 'preferred'. My bread recipes contain salt. I like it that way. But you have my full encouragement to alter the salt levels - 'season to taste.' Salt, it seems to me, is a matter of personal preference: feel free to tinker.

This article is part of the Cook With Confidence series, designed to help you understand the science behind bread-making and find out the keys to success.

Need a Recipe?

I have a whole book of easy-peasy, delicious bread recipes here.

And I Suppose You Know...

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4 comments:

  1. Nice to hear from you again! I've cut down on the amount of salt I use but I'm really not sure about saltfree bread. For myself, maybe, but not for visitors. :-)
    J x

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    1. Yes! I agree - about the not for visitors bit. I bake a batch for my family, my in-laws and my neighbour so, really, I daren't reduce the salt too much(!)

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  2. I've seen several French bread recipes that do exclude salt. Maybe that's why their baguettes are so light and airy. They don't last, to be honest, but then the boulangeries do bake fresh baguettes roughly twice a day. so it's not that much of a problem over there.

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    1. Ah ha! Maybe that's the secret of the illusive air-filled baguette!

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