Mmm bread. It’s a staple in everyone’s home and especially mine. We always have a constant supply of bread. Whether it’s made by hand or with the bread machine, you just can’t go wrong with it!
Bread goes so well in sandwiches, with soups or with some simple butter and jam. It’s doughy, fluffy, soft and totally irresistible, especially when it’s just out of the oven.
I have always added salt to my bread without really knowing why. I just assumed it was for flavour. Most bread recipes always ask for salt to be added to the dough.
Salt is a must in every meal we cook. It enhances and balances out the flavours in all our meals and makes them taste so much better.
But why bread? Is it really necessary to add salt in bread and if not, can you make bread without salt?
Let’s find out!
What does salt do in bread?
Bread is made with 4 vital ingredients; flour, yeast, water and salt. Flour and water are the most important, without them, you can’t make bread. Yeast is a leavening agent that gives the dough a rise.
You will also find that some recipes will ask for sugar to be added too. Sugar doesn’t add much and you can definitely make bread without sugar. But I add it because it gives the crust a lovely golden colour.
You can absolutely make bread with just flour, water and yeast, but if you can consume salt I highly recommend adding it to your bread. Why, you may ask?
Well, salt is actually used for a number of things in bread and is more important than you think it is. If consuming salt doesn’t cause you any health issues then you should definitely be adding it to your loaf.
The main reasons why you should be adding salt to your bread are that it controls the rise during the fermentation stage, it strengthens the gluten and it adds flavour.
Let’s take a look at each factor individually and get a better understanding as to why you should be adding salt to your bread dough.
Controls Rise and Strengthens Gluten
A very important reason as to why you should be adding salt in your loaf is that it helps control the rising process. Without salt, the yeast will go crazy and start eating all the sugar it can find from the dough.
Adding salt prevents the yeast from overproducing too quickly and controls the rate at which the dough rises and ferments.
Dough that doesn’t have salt will rise much faster than one that does contain salt. This might be a bit deceiving as you will think great, longer and faster proofing, fluffier and lighter bread!
But, because the yeast has fermented and risen the dough too fast, it will probably collapse while it’s baking, resulting in a denser dough.
Salt also helps tighten the gluten structure and strengthen the dough. Salt slows down the fermentation process of the yeast, allowing the loaf to hold onto carbon dioxide better and hold its shape.
The dough on the left is slightly taller than the one on the right. Even though it isn’t very obvious, you can see how salt can affect the height of your loaf.
Again, very slight differences, but in the loaf with salt, you can see there is a much more controlled rise and a tighter crumb.
This shows that the gluten was very well developed and the salt definitely helped with that.
The loaf on the left, you can see that there isn’t much control in the structure and texture from the larger and inconsistent air pockets.
I also found it was much more crumbly when I cut into it compared to the one with salt.
If you are making an enriched dough, like for donuts, cinnamon rolls and panettone, then you probably don’t need to worry too much about relying on salt for flavour as the butter, eggs, milk and sugar will enhance the taste of your dough.
But a basic loaf of bread does not get any taste from the flour or yeast, so it relies on salt to help it taste better.
It balances out the flavour of the yeast and the flour and if you don’t add salt, your bread will taste very bland, flat and have a paper-like texture. No one wants tasteless bread!
Watch not to add too much salt though or the loaf will be going straight in the bin!
Literally my partners face when I asked him to do a taste test for me!
And who had to eat the tasteless bread so it didn’t go to waste? Me.
It’s actually not bad at all. I’m definitely over reacting here! Bread is bread and if it really tastes bland, a bit of slated butter and jam will make it go down an absolute treat!
Can You Make Bread Without Salt?
Salt is not the be all and end all when making bread. As we saw from the comparison loaves, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of the texture and height of the loaf.
The only thing that will really stand out as a difference will be the taste.
If you tend to buy store-bought bread, then chances are that it will contain salt. And since each loaf will vary in salt content, you will probably be consuming more salt than you want.
The best way to control how much salt is being added to your loaf is by making it yourself or in a bread machine. If you don’t already own a bread machine or don’t want to spend your hard earned cash on one, there are great budget friendly options out there that produce the tastiest loaves.
You can add anything between 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt to your dough, depending on the size you are making, and that will not compromise the taste, rise or texture.
Following the recipe is definitely your best bet in achieving a great loaf which is much healthier than a store bought one.
If you are really concerned about adding salt to your loaf or the amount of salt found in store bought bread, you can find a homemade bread recipe that does not include salt.
Or you can just omit the salt all together from your regular bread recipe.
When I started making bread, I didn’t think salt was important so I never measured it, I would just grind the tiniest amount in the bowl with my salt grinder.
Now I realise that I was hardly putting any salt in my loaves! No wonder my loaves tasted a bit bland! Now I add around 1 teaspoons of salt to make sure my loaves come out tasting yummy.
But, if you are really concerned about the amount of salt you are consuming then you can make bread without salt. You might just have to compromise on the taste, texture and size of your loaf. But nothing a bit of jam and butter won’t fix anyway!
To see for yourself what bread tastes like without salt, make a loaf with salt and one without it, just like I did. You will be surprised at the difference!