Home Baking Association
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Kitchen Science

Experiment: Salt Savvy

Based on its price at the supermarket, salt doesn't command much respect. It is as important to humans as air-balancing blood volume and maintaining cell and tissue health. Salt was used as wages--salarium (Rome) or salary today-- and was taxed. As early as 250 B.C. (Carthage), wars were fought over salt. Ancient trade routes, cities and highways are named for salt. Salt is probably our
most precious food.

Salt is…
--part of our geography
Ex: Norwich or Greenwich—wich is “place where salt is dug” (Saxon) OR Salzburg (Austria)
--a natural, consumable rock-- halite
--cubic crystals that may be coarse (kosher) or fine (popcorn and seasoning salts)
--Sodium chloride=NaCl
--formed by ionic bonding between an acid (hydrochloric acid) and a base (sodium chloride)
--neutral pH in a water (aqueous) solution
--2.6% of seawater by weight
--also Potassium chloride (KCl)—a salt substitute—a different kind of salty taste without the sodium
--sometimes iodized (sodium iodine) to help prevent hypothyroidism

In cooking and baking salt

  • contributes its own flavor
  • enhances other foods' flavors
  • controls yeast fermentation
  • influences crust color in baked foods
  • helps freeze ice cream
  • preserves foods (meats, butter, fish, pickles)
  • is used to pull moisture or bitterness from foods
    (cucumbers, egg plant, cabbage)

Explore properties of salt:

Salt is heavier than other seasonings.

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper on a plate.
  2. Rub a plastic straw with felt or wool to create a static charge on the straw.
  3. Hold the straw just above the salt and pepper.
  4. Which product jumps to the straw?

Salt controls the fermentation of yeast.

A. Use the following recipe as a control to observe
the difference in bread made with and without salt.
Control: Use the same size of bowl, temperature water
and other ingredients, and environment (room temperature) for Dough 1 and Dough 2.
Variable: Omit salt in Dough 2.

B. Measure: How much has each dough increased in size/volume in 30 minutes? 45 minutes? Is there an aroma difference?

C. Continue with preparing the bread. Bake and sample. What flavor or color (browning) variations can you describe when they are compared?