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We form the dough...the return

19 April 2022

Friends of Erre4m welcome back to our blog. Today we continue the very interesting journey of the complex reactions that take place during the kneading process. In the past post we put gluten under the magnifying glass. Today we are talking about another very important ingredient...let's take a closer look at it!

Among the ingredients that play a key role in bread dough, salt should not be forgotten. Its concentration is variable and depends on many factors; generally it is between 1.8-2.2% (this percentage is calculated on the total flour used) and in any case far from the concentrations considered harmful for the survival of saccharomyces cells as we have seen in previous posts. 
The action of slowing down the fermentative activity of yeasts by salt can practically be observed through a reduction in the volume of the dough combined with a finer alveolation of the crumb. While the presence of coarse alveoli in a dough can be reduced by adding salt or by drastically decreasing the proofing time.
Thus, it can be said that salt in a dough exerts antiseptic action both in terms of the fact that it acts directly on yeast and in terms of its action of slowing down unwanted fermentations operated mainly by bacteria.

For this reason, salt should not be added to fermented doughs such as bigas and poolish unless a deliberate slowing down of the maturation of the pre-doughs themselves is desired in particular summer weather conditions. The same argument also applies to sourdough. Very interesting to note in this regard that many industries voluntarily add about 0.5 percent salt in sourdough with the sole purpose of obtaining a highly selected lactic microflora and limiting the presence of so-called contaminants.

In addition to its antiseptic properties on microorganisms, salt has a hygroscopic action, that is, the ability to absorb water. When salt is added to the dough, in the minutes immediately following its addition, we can notice a greater compactness of the gluten due to the rapprochement of its meshes as a result of a greater number of bonds being formed; also evident is the decrease in the stickiness and stickiness of the dough itself. 

Generally, in most doughs, salt is added at the beginning of the second speed to determine a better formation of gluten in the first minutes of this phase; moreover, due to its antioxidant properties, if added at the beginning it delays the oxidation of the doughs and determines a crumb with an ivory colour, while if added towards the end of kneading it determines an excessively white-glossy colouring of the crumb due to the oxidation of the dough. 
In particularly dry doughs, i.e. with a water content of around 40-42% of the total flour content, or in those doughs that do not have to undergo mechanical heating due to the action of the mixer and are therefore kneaded only at the first speed, it is added immediately at the beginning as, due to the reduced quantity of water, it would not dissolve and its crystals would be evident in the crumb of the finished product. 

In addition to having a direct implication on the colouring of the crumb, it must be remembered that salt also directly affects the colouring of the crust. A bread that contains salt has a more pronounced crust colouration than a bread without it. 
Lastly, it should be remembered that salt also affects the preservation of the finished product precisely because of its microscopic capacity. It very often happens that loaves produced at the same time, in the same environment, with the same workmanship and of the same size do not keep for the same length of time; the cause is mainly to be found in the relative humidity of the environment in which the salted product is stored.  In humid environments, the salt on the outside of the product absorbs part of the ambient humidity, making the product soft, thus limiting its preservation. The opposite situation occurs in dry environments.

To sum up, it can be said that salt has the following properties:
1. Antiseptic and fermentation-slowing properties
2. Antioxidant properties
3. Hygroscopic properties with action on both dough and preservation
4. Acts on crust and crumb colouring
5. Acts on preservation
6. Acts on gluten formation

 

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Blog by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef 

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We form the dough

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'Nothing is more useful than sunshine and SALT' Pliny the Elder