When to add salt to bread dough

Just about every recipe for bread I've seen has the salt added with the flour. But occasionally I see a recipe that has you mix the wet and dry ingredients -- minus the salt -- with the yeast, let it sit for 20 minutes so the flour hydrates (I think that's the reason), then add the salt and start kneading.

Can someone please explain the reason for delaying the addition of the salt?

Thank you.

  • Posted by: Ted
  • April 22, 2017


Jackie April 22, 2017
I do not agree! You should put it in after you have let your yeast break down in warm water and is been added to your flour mixture.
Smaug April 23, 2017
There are an awful lot of ways to put a loaf of bread together,, depending on type of bread, conditions, personal preference etc.- you can start with a poolish or a sponge, giving moisture and yeast a head start, you can mix dry ingredients and moisten afterwards (this is what "instant" yeast is mostly about) etc., you can start with warm or cool water etc. There are a few basics- neither the yeast nor the gluten is going anywhere without moisture, yeast- a living organism- needs to be fed (flour works fine, though sugar is a bit faster), salt and temperature have pretty specific and predictable effects, etc.. It's really a very forgiving process.
Smaug April 23, 2017
Boy, that was a lot of etceteras, but there really are a lot.
PieceOfLayerCake April 23, 2017
The idea of proving your yeast in warm water comes from the fact that sometimes commercial yeast has been sitting on a shelf for an unpredictable amount of time. Sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, its too old and simply won't activate. That is why you mix it with warm water prior to mixing. To make sure that its alive and you aren't about to waste several hours of your life. It is NOT essential to making bread. As long as the yeast is alive, is in the mix and comes in contact with water and food (carbohydrates), it will work. If I'm not using starter, I use a very reputable source for dry yeast and I use it often enough to know that it will activate. Which means if I want to make a very simple no-knead bread, I will just mix the yeast in with the flour before I add the water. Works every single time.
Stephanie B. April 23, 2017
I hardly activate my yeast in warm water prior to mixing my dough anymore (at least not with my favorite breads, which are lean and "slow" if that makes sense). I'm a simple home baker, using whatever brand of active dry yeast is in the grocery store and I've never had a problem with the yeast activating when I mix it with the dry ingredients. With or without a pre-ferment, as long as the yeast is alive, and gets food and water, it'll wake up.
PieceOfLayerCake April 22, 2017
What you're describing sounds like an autolyse. When I make bread, I mix the flour, water and yeast (in my case starter) together and let it sit for 20 - 30 minutes. It allows enzymatic action to reorganize the proteins in the flour to make gluten development faster and easier. Its a bit too complicated to explain here, but I would encourage you to look it up, its quite fascinating. Salt inhibits the autolyse, so its left out until after. If you're using dry yeast, its actually quite immune to salt until its rehydrated and brought out of its hibernation, so if you're making a straight dough (without the autolyse), you can add the salt at any time.

I nearly always incorporate an autolyse into my breads these days. It really does make a difference in the final product.
Ted April 22, 2017
Thank you.
Smaug April 22, 2017
Salt will inhibit the yeast, and can kill it in high enough concentration- bakers try to arrange it so that the salt is spread out in the other ingredients before it makes contact with the yeast.
Ted April 22, 2017
Thank you.
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