What is the role of salt in baking? If you’ve ever wondered what salt does in baking, and if it’s really all that important. Let’s dive into a little baking 101 today! We will cover its role and table salt vs. kosher salt in baking!
Salt. So simple right? A pinch of it is usually all a recipe calls for. A little bit goes a long way. But have you ever thought more about it? Is it really that important? You betcha. So important. Skip it and you will notice a difference.
This was one topic I wrote about in my cookbook, Beginner’s Baking Bible so that all beginner bakers do NOT make a crucial mistake and mix up, or worse skip it altogether!
In fact, recently I was making this Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake and used table salt in the recipe. Unfortunately the recipe called for kosher salt. So when I went to try the buttercream frosting it tasted WAY too salty! Ugh. 🤦🏻♀️
Such a simple mistake! But I’m going to guess I’m not the only one who has made this mistake. So I thought why not dive into a little fun baking science today. You ready to nerd out?
What Kind Of Salt Is Used In Baking?
There are different kinds of salt out there. Some recipes will have the type of salt specified, where some don’t. So it can be tricky, especially because they are not all the same. But here is a quick breakdown of the different types of salts you may encounter in baking.
- Table Salt – This salt is the one I use pretty much 100% of the time. This is also known as iodized table salt. This salt is made by sending water into salt mines. Then the water is evaporated and the salt crystals are left behind. Iodine was added in the 1920’s to help prevent an iodine deficiency. Most grocery store table salts contain iodine.
- Kosher Salt – Kosher salt, on the other hand, is iodine free. Kosher salt has larger granules than table salt. So kosher salt contains fewer granules in the same measurement than table salt, so you will need more of it if a recipe calls for it. Kosher salt, is called kosher because the larger granules are ideal for drawing the moisture out of meat during kosher making process Not all kosher salts are created equal, however. Morton Kosher salt is apparently denser and therefore saltier than Diamond Crystal salt. Morton salt would be an equal 1:1 substitution for table salt. If you are using Diamond Crystal salt, then you would need double the amount called for the table salt in a recipe.
- Sea Salt – This salt comes from evaporated sea water. There are different varieties of sea salt that you might see on the shelves – Himalayan pink, Celtic, and my favorite Fleur De Sel (more on this below). This is finer in granule size than kosher salt, so you can use sea salt in most recipes that call for table salt. This fine salt will still dissolve in baking and sift quite well.
- Fleur De Sel – This fancy French sea salt, translated as “flower of salt” is a salt I reserve for sprinkling on at the end of a dessert. Maybe on top of a chocolate chip cookie or in salted caramel saucesalted caramel sauce. It’s more expensive than the other salts so I use it sparingly. I bought mine at Dean and Deluca in DC on vacation years ago but you can also buy it on Amazon.
What Is The Role Of Salt In Baking?
Believe it or not, salt plays quite a few roles in baking.
1. Salt Provides Flavor.
You might be thinking, well DUH Heather….it adds flavor. Salt = saltiness. Sort of. Salt isn’t added really to add a salty flavor. By adding just a little salt, it can actually help balance all that sweetness going on in your dessert. It will actually help bring out the flavors of everything else in your recipe.
Basically leave it out and you will notice. Your dessert will be bland! So don’t skip it.
2. Strengthen Dough
Salt will actually help strengthen your bread and pastry dough. It helps to strengthen the gluten structure in your dough and will help trap the carbon dioxide.
Salt = dough that rises beautifully (aka doesn’t deflate in the oven!)
3. Controls Rate Of Yeast
By adding salt, it will help to remove some of the water from yeast slowing it down. Without it, the yeast can bubble too quickly and create overproofed yeast and uneven results.
But be careful! Salt can also kill yeast, so it’s best to add not directly with the yeast. I like to proof my yeast, then add my flour. Then salt. This creates a barrier between the yeast and salt.
4. Baked Goods Will Last Longer
Salt is hygroscopic, aka it attracts water, so that means it will hold onto the moisture in your baked goods. So with more moisture being retained in your baked goods means they will stay moist and fresh longer.
5. Consistency In Recipes
If you have read my blog before you will note that I say to ALWAYS use unsalted butter. Different brands will use varying amounts of salt in their salted butter. So instead of using salted butter I recommend using unsalted butter + salt.
This way you can always control the taste and get consistent results in your recipes.
6. Easier To Use Eggs
Salt will help to denature and loosen up the proteins in eggs. If you add a little salt to an egg wash it will help thin it out making it easier to brush onto your pastries before baking.
More Baking 101 Posts To Check Out
- Which Flour Is Best For Cookies?
- Which Does Butter Do In Cookies?
- How To Make Homemade Buttermilk
- My Top 20 Tips For Baking Cakes
- How To Make Homemade Buttermilk