The main role of salt in dough is for flavor; it is an essential seasoning. If you have ever eaten bread or a pizza crust without salt you would know instantly that something was different. Baked dough without salt tastes bland and has a lackluster flavor regardless of the toppings. The crust is the first thing we taste on a pizza, wither you are from New York and fold your pizza in half or the rest of the world and don’t the crust is your first taste and it should be perfect.
Before you consider removing or reducing the salt over health concerns or think “isn’t 5 grams of salt a lot, most package foods mention sodium in milligrams”. Remember that those measurements are per serving and salt is the chemical compound NaCl, Sodium Chloride, and is only 40% sodium with the remaining 60% being chloride. If you have 5 grams of salt in a recipe you are only adding 2g of sodium. Out of a 13” pizza a typical serving size might be one slice if divided into six pieces. This puts the dough right in the same sodium content level as most other foods, around 333mg. Just as too much salt intake can harm the body salt is essential for the health of your cells, nerves and muscles as well. Wither for dough, toppings or any other food use just enough to enhance the flavor of the food and not over power it. You do not want to mask the natural flavors with salt.
Roles of Salt in Dough Before Baking
Salt affects elasticity and texture of the dough creating a dough that is stronger and feels less sticky. This is helpful in stretching and hand tossing when forming a crust. Dough with lower salt levels is more likely to tear or stick to the pizza peel.
Salt regulates the yeast activity by slowing down their sugar consumption rate and creating a more consistent fermentation. This slow fermentation time allows for the gluten to become fully hydrated and also preventing the dough from over fermenting quickly. An over fermented dough will have less sugar left to caramelize when baking thus lacking a tasty golden brown colored crust.
Salt reduces the oxidation rate of the flour during mixing and kneading. Oxidation of flour causes a degradation of the carotenoid pigment which contributes to the flavor and color of the final baked crust.
Roles of Salt in Baked Crust
Salt enhances the flavor; a crust without salt will seem bland and take away from the overall experience of the toppings.
Salt attracts water and will help keep your dough moist and fresh, more important in bread or for left over pizza. A bread product without salt will become dry and stale in texture within a few hours of baking, these effects cannot be slowed or reversed.
Formulas to Determine Amount of Salt in Dough
Typical salt levels in dough should fall between 1.7% and 2.1% of the weight of flour, roughly a half a teaspoon (2.3g) per level cup of flour (125g). Below are two formulas used for adjusting salt levels by weight and percentage.
% of Salt = (Salt Weight / Flour Weight) * 100
Use this formula to determine the percentage of salt in a dough recipe when you know the weight of salt and flour being used.
Salt Weight = (% of Salt to Use * 0.01) * Flour Weight
Use this formula to determine the amount of salt to use by weight when you know the percentage of salt you would like to use and the amount of flour being used by weight.