SALT  (Sodium Chloride) NaCL

Common salt, known chemically as Sodium Chloride, NaCL,comprising 40% sodium and 60% chlorine. It is a white crystalline substance with a unique flavour and of vital importance in the making of bread, confectionery and many other types of  prepared foods, as a preservative and an antiseptic.

Salt is a very important and necessary  part of the human diet, however excessive use can be detrimental to good health.

It has been established that salt was used as far back as 6000 B.C. 

Salts ability to preserve, allowed food to be transported over long distances and eliminated seasonal dependence. This was a big step forward for the development of civilisation. In the early days, because it was difficult to obtain, it was a very valuable product and was used as trading currency. Later it was said that the Roman soldiers were partly paid in salt and this is were the word Salary originated from.

Main source of salt is sea water and mineral (rock salt).

Sea salt is produced by  evaporation, this may be by using the sun or in cooler climates by heating in vacuum pans.

There are large deposits of rock salt spread around the globe. These are sometimes mined, brought to the surface and then processed.Another method is to drill down into a deposit , pump down water and then extracting the brine created, which is then evaporated..

 Middlewich in Cheshire was at one time the centre of salt production for the U.K.

The Uses of Salt in Bread Making

 (1) It is used as a flavouring agent  as it has a flavour entirely of its own and brings out the flavour of the other ingredients, excess salt in any product can render it inedible.

 (2) used in normal quantities it strengthens the Gluten there by influencing the shape and volume of the loaf.

 (3) The correct quantity of salt controls yeast fermentation and gas production. Excessive salt will retard fermentation and in some cases will kill the yeast growth entirely. It is not a good thing to allow even a nominal quantity of salt to come into direct contact with yeast as this will greatly retard fermentation.

 Accurate weighing and measuring of salt when making bread is essential.

.A dough containing insufficient salt will lack control and fermentation will proceed too rapidly giving a dough  excess acidity and a dough which rapidly becomes over ripe.

 (4) Salt acts as an antiseptic and prevents the growth of bacteria which causes sourness in bread. 

 (5) Salt has a great effect on the handling of the dough, insufficient salt gives a sticky dough which is difficult to handle.Too much salt will give a putty like , short dead dough.

 (6) Salt has an effect upon the moistness of the finished bread because salt is highly Hygroscopic and because of this  it improves the keeping qualities of bread.

 (7) Salt greatly influences the colour of the crust of the loaf  and used in correct quantities salt will ensure that just the right quantity of sugar is present in the dough at the time of baking which gives to the loaf a rich attractive bloom.

The Uses of Salt in Confectionery.

Salt is used in confectionery for the same properties as for bread making, however  it is used in much smaller quantities. A small addition to a cake mix will help to enhance the flavours and at the same time strengthen the gluten in a soft flour which will be shortened even more by the fats in the mixing. This is especially relevant when a mixing contains fruit or nuts etc. It will improve the keeping qualities and shelf life (this is why manufactured/processed foods contain as much salt as the producer can add), it is cheaper ,allows more liquid to be added and keeps a lot longer, all the things that the mass producer wants (Ed note: all the more reason for home baking)

  A pinch of salt in the egg whites when whisking for meringues will help to give a stable foam. Certain types of pastry benefit from the addition of salt , puff pastry being a prime example. Salt will also be used in savoury products such as  fillings and sauces/gravies.

Methods of Using Salt. 

Generally the best way to add salt  is to sieve it together with other dry ingredients, flour being the most obvious.

In some cases it can be added by dissolving in the liquid being used, such as pastry making.

Accurate weighing is essential.

Salt higher's the boiling point of water and so vegetables will cook quicker and therefore retain their flavour and colour.

Salt is hygroscopic and should always be stored  in  dry, airtight  conditions. 

Ideal temperature is 14-21C (57-70F)

In the right conditions it will keep indefinitely.

Table salt usually contains an anti-caking agent (Sodium Hexacyanoferrate)

If a weak flour is being used for bread making it is an advantage to add the salt dry and well sifted when the dough is partially mixed and partially fermented. In this way the salt has an astringent action on the gluten in the flour giving it a little extra oven spring and volume. This is known as the delayed salt method , a method favoured by many French bakers because of the low gluten content of the French flour.

Salt must never be allowed in direct contact with yeast.

Because it is Hygroscopic it is an ideal preservative/antiseptic , it denies bacteria one of its requirements to growth i.e moisture.