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Does salt have any effect on the texture of doughs?

My mother in law has gone on an ultra low salt kick and has taken to not putting salt in anything. This includes her pierogi dough (you know the potato & often cheese filled dumplings common to eastern European peasant cooking).

I've noticed that her pierogi dough seems tougher (like she's re-rolled the dough, which over works the dough and as I under stand makes more gluten) without the salt that used to be with it. It's a rather simple dough: flour, water, vegetable oil and salt. I imagine I'd get the same effect with a pie crust as well.

Is the salt inhibiting the gluten formation or doing something else or am just imagining this effect?

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3 Answers 3

In the bread book I have, by Swedish baker Jan Hedh, most of the recipes call for mixing the dough for several minutes at low speed before adding the salt, and then for a few minutes more at higher speed with the salt. So unless Chef Hedh is also imagining things there appears to be something going on, although I am not sure exactly what. When I get home later tonight I will check the book and see if he mentions anything about why this is necessary. I found one of his recipes online (in Swedish unfortunately) where the times are as follows:

  1. Knead/mix at low speed for 13 minutes without salt.
  2. Add salt.
  3. Mix for 7 minutes at maximum speed.

Here is the recipe for anyone interested:
http://svenska.yle.fi/matochfritid/matartikel.php?id=2414

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it might have to do with a chemical reaction between the salt and other chemical compounds, just a guess, but kitchen chemistry has taught that reactions can be very important. sort of like backing soda and vinegar making bubbles. so salt interacts with the flour making it less sticky, so you don't add as much flour. then it less tough

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Salt toughens gluten and makes the dough less sticky. So with that said, it would make it much easier to work in too much flour and make the pierogi dough more dense. Do a search on the following page for "biscuit" and read the few paragraphs before.

http://www.saltinstitute.org/Articles-references/References-on-salt-use/References-on-salt-use/References-on-salt-in-food

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The increase stickiness leading to more flour would make sense, since nothing is measured and you can't work with sticky dough. –  CodeSlave Dec 25 '10 at 18:58

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