Salt - don't ever forget this ingredient. I highlight this for good reason. Although a seemingly small ingredient, salt affects the taste, the texture, the color, the rise and the shelf life of bread. It is amazing how this one item affects the outcome of a loaf of bread for both good or ill.
Salt does the following:
Helps to tighten gluten structure making a stronger dough.
Helps control the rise. Salt actually slows down the rise and works with yeast to control the timing and flavor of the bread.
Improves crust color.
Is vital to making and preserving great bread.
All about Salt Bread 202
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Why does salt affect bread in so many different ways? It's all behind the science of what salt does when added to the other ingredients when making bread.
How Salt Works:
Adds Flavor - The right amount of salt added at the right time helps develop the best flavor in bread. Salt helps to preserve carotenoid pigments (responsible for color and flavor) in the flour by slowing down the oxidation process when the yeast consumes sugars in the dough. In simple terms - salt slows down the yeast, which helps preserve the carotenoids that provide flavor and color to the bread.
Helps Tighten Gluten Structure - Salt helps to bring the gluten together so that the gluten has a tighter bond. Tighter gluten helps trap carbon dioxide as the yeast ferments, allowing the dough to raise properly - not too quickly and not too slow.
Controls the Rise - Without salt, yeast will ferment too quickly, overproof the dough and create a loose, crumbly loaf. Salt works with the yeast, helping the yeast ferment more slowly in a more controlled environment. The right amount of salt is important - Too much salt will retard the yeast and prevent fermentation and rise, whereas not enough salt will allow the yeast to ferement too quickly.
Helps Improves Crust Color - Salt by itself doesn't creat crust good crust color. Similar to controling the rise, salt causes the yeast to ferment more slowly which causes the yeast to consume less of the sugars in the dough. By reducing the rate the yeast consums sugars, more sugars are present in the dough when the dough has risen and is baked. Without salt, yeast will more quickly consume the sugars in the dough. Without those sugars which bake into that nice golden-brown color, the crust will be pale.
As you can see, salt is a vital ingredient when making bread. From controling the rise to coloring the crust properly - and enhancing the flavor and gluten structure of the dough, the importance of salt can't be underestimated.
How much salt?
Salt should be no more than 1.8 - 2.0%
of the recipe ingredients by weight.
Roughly 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp for each
3 cups of flour used.