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Whilst I can understand salt in the majority of recipes, I never really understood why it is in so many deserts or biscuits.

When I have asked a few friends or family who do a lot of cookery, the vast majority say pretty much the same thing "the salt cuts across the other flavours", or "you always just add it!".

But... So many times, when I eat biscuits, if I chew a lot and then just as I swallow, I can always taste salt... The ones I probably taste salt the most on are (Worst first) : Custard Creams, Digestives, Rich Tea.

In my honest opinion, the salt just isn't needed - I don't think it adds anything, and, it just seems to leave a horrible after taste (I can usually always taste it, but a lot more when I chew a lot).

In particular, now that so many people are on low salt diets and so many people say it is bad for you, I don't understand why it is there!

So, is there a good reason why it is added?

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I suspect that, even if you find some things too salty, you might find salt-free desserts to be missing something. There's a delicious middle ground in there. –  Jefromi Aug 29 '11 at 16:13
    
@Jefomi - I have seen the recipes for some biscuits and I am not a good cook, but I think I may try to make two batches, one with salt and one without and really test it for myself! –  wilhil Aug 29 '11 at 16:32
    
@WH you might also add a batch with "half" the recommended salt. –  Cos Callis Aug 29 '11 at 19:42
    
It has been explained in a much more detail in the other answers, so I'll just add a comment of what amounts to my personal opinion instead: Adding salt improves the falvor. While you can certainly exclude salt from deserts, I've found that flavour of some of those dishes becomes much "thinner" without salt. And yes, you might just tryu to make the desert with- and without salt and taste the difference yourself... –  Roland Tepp Sep 2 '11 at 6:51
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Can we pass a law making it an automatic prison time felony to mention you're going to try some interesting food/cooking experiment to solve a challenge, then never returning with the results,leaving us all hanging? :^D If you're still around, wilhil, how did it go? Are you using more, the same, less or no salt in your desserts? –  MargeGunderson Sep 26 '12 at 12:41
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2 Answers

Not only does salt affect the taste of baked goods, it reacts with the dough chemically to slow the action of leaveners, and to change the texture. Here's a brief synopsis, which discusses how salt has an effect on water absorption, as well : http://www.progressivebaker.com/resources/tips_effects_of_salt.shtm

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+1: Salt is not just for flavouring, and you exclude it at your peril. –  Satanicpuppy Aug 29 '11 at 20:46
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Example: yeast will grow too fast and overproof your dough without salt, which helps to control it by killing some amount of the yeast. –  justkt Aug 29 '11 at 20:48
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Salt has unique properties in how it interacts with the taste buds. While it has its own "flavor" it also has the ability to enhance some flavors while blocking your ability to experience others.

While I could go on, all I would be doing is repeating much of what I learned watching The Food Network's Alton Brown. He goes in depth for the episode "The Ballad of Salty and Sweet" which is available on YouTube.

There are (of course) other resources, but AB does a really great job of teaching in this episode.

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Yes, salt (in the right amount) does tweak other flavors. Chocolate is another ingredient that is really helped by salt-- that is why chocolate-covered pretzels are so delicious. –  Angelo Aug 29 '11 at 14:35
    
In the Good Eats episode I link to the first thing AB does is sprinkle salt (kosher salt of course) on top of a chocolate covered cookie. –  Cos Callis Aug 29 '11 at 14:41
    
+1 for now, but, I want to wait to see if anyone else answer. Thank you very much. –  wilhil Aug 29 '11 at 16:32
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