What Does Salt Do in Baking

If you’ve ever heard someone say, “This dish needs salt,” they weren’t just picky. Salt is a known flavor enhancer and should be added to all types of flavors, from sweet to savory. It is essential for adding depth to baked goods and can also tame treats from being overly sweet.

Hi! My name is Michelle, and I love salt. If I can taste at least a bit of salt, I’m happy. Of course, the same isn’t always true for baked goods. But I still understand the importance of salt and that no baked treat should go without.

Are you wondering why your baking recipe calls for a dash of salt? Even a pinch of salt can make all of the difference, so you shouldn’t skip it. And this article will tell you why.

Feeling salty? Let’s dig in.

What Does Salt Do in Baking?

Although you might be using such a minute amount of salt that you don’t even think it matters, the fact of the matter is – it does. Salt is an incredibly important component in any recipe, including baked treats.

This can come as a surprise, though. After all, you’re baking to achieve a sweet good. Why would you want to taint it with the flavor of salt?

The truth is, the small amount of salt you’re using for your baked goods will not be affected negatively. Salt has only positive effects on your treats. Here’s how.

Salt Enhances Flavor

It might seem like salt will make your baked treat bitter and less sweet, but that is anything but the truth. Salt is a well-known flavor enhancer, whether you’re baking a whole chicken in the oven or whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

When it comes to baking, salt makes all the difference. It will enhance the depth of each and every ingredient used in the dish, going from a boring and bland 2-dimensional flavor to expressive, full-flavored, three-dimensional wonders.

It’s true – even though the pinch of salt might seem like such a small amount that it’s unnecessary. Trust me, never skip the salt!

It Tames Sweet and Sour Flavors

You have a goal with your baked goods: you want it to be sweet and, in some instances, sour (think of when you’re making some homemade sour gummies). Did you know that salt can balance out these flavors, making them taste better? Yup, it’s true.

Salt is a pretty magical ingredient. Although it’s applied to baked goods in small increments, the small amount works to remove bitterness and balance out overall sweetness (and sour notes) to create a desirable, perfectly balanced flavor.

Everyone Needs and Loves Salt

Did you know that your body needs salt? So when you have a salt craving, you’re not just imagining things. Salt is essential for balancing body fluids, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and encouraging nerve and muscle function.

That said, we are naturally accustomed to enjoying the flavor of salt because we need it. Does that mean you should triple the amount of salt in your baking recipe? Not at all. Salt is one of the five basic tastes of the tongue so that you can detect small amounts. Stick to the recipe.

Sometimes Aids in Leavening

Salt is not technically known as a leavening agent, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help. Salt is a great “helping hand” for leavening when used in recipes where whipped egg whites with salt are folded into the batter. 

With this baking method, salt can encourage ingredients to hold their volume. In turn, you’re left with a baked treat that’s perfectly plump and fluffy. Yum!

Encourages Browning

In some baked goods, such as pastries, salt can be great at reducing the oily or buttery feel while encouraging browning. Basically, your pastry can look, feel, and taste saturated without salt, which is obviously unappealing.

With salt added, though, you can achieve pastry greatness. Not only will oils be tamed, but you will encourage the perfect amount of browning on your pastry. This provides a gorgeous appearance and mouth-watering flavor and texture that everyone enjoys.

Creates Perfect Bread

When it comes to chatting about what salt does in baking, we can’t forget our good old bread recipes. Salt does two big things for bread:

  • Strengthens the dough, and
  • Controls the yeast

You see, salt is necessary for strengthening the overall gluten structure in your dough while trapping carbon dioxide. Why is this important? Because both are necessary for creating a dough that will actually rise – aka, you won’t have to fear flattened bread (ew).

At the same time, salt also removes some excess water from the dough and slows down the yeast. In turn, the yeast will be perfectly proofed for the ideal result. 

Makes Baked Goods Last Longer

Last but not least, salt can help baked goods last longer. I’m sure you have heard that people used salt to prevent food spoilage in the days before handy refrigerators. They were definitely onto something – because it worked.  Don’t think that the same rules don’t apply today.

Since salt attracts water, moisture is retained in baked treats. This results in goodies that not only last longer than those without salt, but they also stay fresher, moister, and overall more scrumptious. Thanks, salt!

FAQs

Needless to say, don’t skip the salt in your baking recipes. Still have questions about this amazing ingredient? Then take a glance over these frequently asked questions about what does salt does in baking.

Can you omit salt in baking?

You can, but that doesn’t mean you should. Unless your doctor has specifically told you that you need to cut out salt from your diet, I always recommend you put salt in your baked goods. If you absolutely can’t, there are some potential salt alternatives that can work.

What happens if you don’t add salt to bread?

Without salt, you might not achieve your desired results. Does a lack of salt mean your batch of bread will be ruined? No, but the texture might be a little bit “off”. It will still be edible and tasty, just not as good as if you had used the recommended amount of salt in your dough.

What is the purpose of the salt in baking your cookies?

Salt is super important for cookies! Not only does it help cookies to taste amazing with the right amount of sweetness and flavor complexity, but it also encourages chewiness. And who doesn’t love a chewy cookie?

Do you need salt to activate baking powder?

It certainly helps! Without salt, items like baking powder and baking soda might not rise as much as items that have included this handy little ingredient. Therefore, don’t skip on the salt!

Final Thoughts

Salt is obviously important for baked goods. It enhances flavor and creates a perfectly balanced treat that is just the right amount of sweet. It also works to encourage browning, aid in leavening, and help baked goods last longer and retain their sweetness. Don’t skip it!

Did you know what salt did in baking? If you bake without salt, what is your recommended substitute? Share your baking stories with us below so we can try, too!

About Michelle
I have been a lover of sweets since day one. This led me on a self-taught baking journey starting at the age of 13. It's been over 10 years since the start of my baking adventures, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now, people rave about my delectable treats, whether it’s a chocolate cake or a strawberry crepe.

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