More on salt ...



I’ve made bread for many years using bakers’ yeast and have always followed the original instructions I was given which involve sifting flour and salt into a bowl then adding water and kneading. No mention of adding the salt later. This always produced a decent loaf (although not a patch on sourdough IMO).

 As I discussed in a separate post I have found that amongst sourdough experts (Bertinet, Robertson et al) there is a strong opinion that salt should not be added until some initial development of the dough has taken place. It is clear that salt introduced during the initial stages does not interfere with the action of ordinary bakers’ yeast and I have shown in my own sourdough baking that perfectly decent loaves can be produced by adding salt during the initial stages but I am wondering whether the reason for delaying the addition of salt might be because it interferes not with the yeast but with the bacteria, which is such an important part of sourdough baking.

As I understand it bakers’ yeast is a very powerful strain that gobbles up all the available food, leaving nothing for the bacteria, whereas in sourdough, or natural yeast baking, the weaker strains of yeast are able to co-exist with the lactobacillus sanfranciscensis thus producing the unique flavour of sourdough. Does the early addition of salt tend to kill off this bacteria thus affecting the complexity of the final taste without interfering with the rising of the dough?

Just thinking aloud really.


294 users have voted.


farinam's picture
farinam 2013 April 7

This is a fairly succinct statement of the role of salt in bread making.  I think that the only way that salt would kill your yeasts and bacteria would be if the concentration was high enough to cause the water inside the cells to migrate out by osmosis such as what happens when they make yeast extracts such as Marmite and Vegemite.  I am pretty sure that in normal bread the concentration is never that high so it probably doesn't matter when it is added from a concentration point of view.  The same would apply to bacteria I am sure.

The role of autolysis on the other hand is potentially a slightly different matter but once again I suspect that the differences are rather subtle.

I am not suggesting that these articles are in any way superior or more scientifically based than many others that are out there, they are just a couple that I could recall at short notice.

Keep on bakin'


Alvaremj's picture
Alvaremj 2013 April 8

I agree, very good articles. I always add the salt after the autolyse. I've forgotton once or twice and the dough doesn't really develope without it. I subscribe to the thinking that salt is there to add flavor, and to inhibit yeast growth in wild as well as commercial yeast. So use it as an aid rather that a burden.

I add the starter to the flour and water together for the autolyse mostly because its hard to incorperate if added after. I add salt before kneading. 

That being said people have been baking bead for hundreds of years. My thinking is that if your dough rises and it tasts good, you have succeded. There are as many methods as there are bakers and as they say in the Jazz world, "You just have to feel it"

Happy baking!


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