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I'm making a bare-bones bread recipe, but I was wondering what the salt does. It looks like it helps it rise, but how does it compare to sugar? How do they interact with each other?

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Salt has three functions in bread.

  1. It changes the flavor, making it more savory.
  2. It inhibits the yeast. In fact, it makes it more difficult to rise, not easier - as you see, the effect is not that pronounced, to the point where it was easy for you to mistake its direction from casual observation.
  3. It makes a somewhat firmer gluten structure.

It doesn't really interact with sugar at the amounts used in bread recipes (and in a barebones recipe, there is no sugar anyway). Also, it has different effects from sugar, so there is no common dimension on which to compare them.

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    The salt effect can be quite pronounced if you add too much. I had mixed up the dry ingredients for no-knead bread but didn’t end up making it. Two weeks later I couldn’t remember if it was just flour or everything, so added more sugar, salt, and yeast. Doubled the sugar and yeast, but only added 1/2 the salt the second time just in case …. It barely rose.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 4:19
  • Also, the effect is pretty pronounced without salt too. The bread tastes "flat" and almost metallic (at least to me). Same thing with oatmeal and eggs; like something is missing, but hard to say exactly what until you add a little salt.
    – coblr
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 21:34
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    @coblr I can vouch for the salt-in-oatmeal thing, at least; I was baffled why my oatmeal tasted hollow and grey, I'd added a bunch of sugar and raisins. My dad told me to add some salt - bingo!
    – Erhannis
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 15:21

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