I made some little bacon and blue cheese brioches to see how pancetta would flavour the bread. I was wary of the amount of salt I would need in the dough and decided the bacon would provide enough. Wrong! The dough rose very quickly and the finished flavour was quite flat. Although I thought I was using a lot of bacon and blue cheese – and their smell while baking was mouth-watering – their presence in the final product was … slight.
Bacon and blue cheese brioche – shame about the salt
They are still brioches. Maybe, like the salt-free Pane Toscano, they simply need salty accompaniments?
Salt helps the gluten; it gives flavour; it acts as a preservative; and it helps to slow down the action of the yeast. But how much salt do we actually need in bread? At what point is the chemistry of baking affected by reducing salt?
I started using less and less salt in my breads. The structure and longevity did not seem to be affected at first – but I did miss the taste.
At 1% salt-to-flour, the effects were not very pronounced. At 0.8%, there was a marked lack of flavour. At 0.6%, the yeast was too active and the bread staled quickly. So 0.7% is probably a minimum – if you have the scales to weigh so accurately!