The one bread ingredient you can’t live without

The one bread ingredient you can’t live without


There are many ingredients that bakers think of as vital, but one that baking requires, as does life itself, is salt. This versatile ingredient appears in many forms and in nearly every recipe imaginable. It has been the subject of wars, and the material used to carve fascinating subterranean healing centers, and at least one salt mine contains sculptures and facilities like basketball courts carved entirely out of – you guessed it – salt. In the world of baking, this once expensive commodity is still of extreme importance. Read on to learn more about salt, its various forms, and its uses in breadmaking.


What does salt do for bread?

Let’s get down to basics. How does salt affect your baking? Salt plays several key roles in breadmaking. It tightens the gluten, improving bread texture. Salt provides and enhances flavor, even in sweet recipes. It slows yeast growth, keeping your bread from growing out of control, and even assists in providing good color to the crust of your loaf. In short, if there is a miracle ingredient in baking, salt is it.


What type of salt should you bake with?

This is such a difficult question to answer. It all depends on what your goals are. The three main salts that you will encounter in your grocery store are sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt. Here is my take on each:


Sea salt: Use small chunks of sea salt as a topping on savory breads for a little extra kick. In its ground form, sea salt dissolves quickly and easily into the dough, providing little added saltiness per se, but all of the positive effects of salt that you need for perfect texture, crumb, and color. Some special varieties of salt carry a significant flavor of their own due to trace mineral content, so make sure to taste the salt itself before using it, to make sure that it blends well with your other ingredients.


Kosher salt: Kosher salt also dissolves readily, and won’t give a sharp salty flavor to your baked goods. Unlike sea salt, however, it doesn’t really carry its own flavor profile.


Table salt: Almost all table salt in the United States is granulated and iodized. It won’t dissolve easily in dough, as a result. If you like a sharp salt flavor, this is your best bet. It does provide the same effect as other salts in retarding yeast growth and perfecting crumb.

In other words, the type of salt you use depends on what you want to make, and what flavors you love. If I am baking cookies, I reach for the table salt. When baking, sea salt or kosher salt are the better options in my book. Then again, if you like a palpable saltiness to your bread, table salt may be your go to for all baking. Try all three (or more, if you decide to play with the myriad sea salts) if you have the chance, and happy baking!

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