Some Functions of Salt in Desserts
I have recently had the pleasure of listening to a student discussing an essay on salt (thank you Michela!): this apparently trivial topic
can indeed be the starting point for shedding some light on both cooking and pastry-making.
The use of salt in food preparations dates back to very ancient times – when our ancestors understood it would enhance flavours and
help food preservation. Today salt is still one of the most common preservatives used in cooking and in the food industry.
On the market we can find a huge variety of salts, all with different structural and sensory properties. Although the use of salt is almost
exclusively associated to cooking, it does play a very important role in pastry-making too.
In this post I will explore the technical aspects related to pastry and explain the advantages we can derive from the use of salt in
We perceive four tastes (+ one):
Salt is a flavour enhancer, which means it makes food tastier.
If a shortcrust pastry, a breakfast cake or a leavened dessert lacks salt, we immediately notice because we perceive their taste as
incomplete.Adding a pinch of salt to pastry cream or custard makes flavour pop, as well as it enhances the aroma and fragrant notes of
a pistachio-flavoured dessert.
To recap: the right amount of salt enhances our perception of aromas and tastes while masking less pleasant qualities such as
bitterness and metallic off-notes.
In recent years salted caramel ice cream, salted toffee sauces, chocolates and pralines with assorted salts have flooded the market,
indicating consumers’ attitude and perception of salty flavours has evolved.
So far I have described the qualities of salt in terms of taste, but salt is primarily a very important element in the leavening of bread and
Texture Enhancer in Leavened Dough
The addition of salt in small proportions (1-2.5%) makes dough more resistant and elastic, positively affecting gluten formation.
If used correctly in the leavening of baked products salt also improves leavening time and helps controlling yeast fermentation.
However, salt does inhibit yeast growth, consequently it must never come into direct contact with it, and it must be added to the dough
at a later stage.
A dough without salt boosts carbon dioxide production and results in poor, or even falling, dough texture; if the judicious amounts of
salts are used the dough rises well and the final baked products are light and full of volume.
Using salt in leavened desserts – especially in cakes made with sourdough – will help stabilize the production of some acids and inhibit
Have a nice, well-salted dessert!