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Is it possible to make low sodium French Bread or Baguettes? My husband is on a low sodium diet and will only eat French Bread. I know there is a relationship between yeast and salt.

  • What's the yeast/salt relationship you mentioned? rumtscho's answer implicitly says there isn't one, but if you're interested in having that more directly addressed, you could explain further. – Cascabel Jul 13 '16 at 17:49
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    @Jefromi I didn't mean to say there isn't one. Salt inhibits yeast a little bit. But I assume people are judging the timing of their breadmaking by how much the dough has risen and not by the clock, so it doesn't matter - if they are not, then they have larger problems with under- or overrising than those caused by salt. – rumtscho Jul 13 '16 at 20:48
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    "and will only eat French Bread" That sounds pretty self-imposed. – SnakeDoc Jul 13 '16 at 21:49
  • While I was living in France , a friend of mine would only eat unsalted French bread because of his high blood pressure. Unsalted bread tastes very different. I would say almost bland! – Ken Graham Jul 14 '16 at 2:18
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Salt will kill yeast if directly exposed; furthermore it will have an effect on the texture as well as significantly altering the taste.

Just remember that if you are baking your own bread the amount of sodium is significantly reduced compared to commercial products (Most of the bread recipes I've used have very little salt in them anyway) and you may find that you will not need to modify the recipes to fit your husband's diet.

Also, you might consider using a low-sodium salt substitute.

King Arthur Flour has a great rundown of how salt affects bread here.

I've copied and pasted the text in case the link dies:

Salt is a major component in bread, and performs several important functions. We will discuss these functions in detail, as well as some other attributes, with the goal of providing the baker with a thorough understanding of the characteristics and correct use of salt in bread baking.

Salt provides flavor. Bread baked without salt will have a flat and insipid taste. On the other hand, bread made with an excess of salt will be unpalatable. Generally, the correct amount of salt in bread dough is 1.8 to 2% of salt based on flour weight (that is, 1.8–2 pounds of salt per 100 pounds of flour). The lack of ability to coax fermentation flavor from bread sometimes causes the baker to use an excess of salt. But it should be kept in mind that, while salt provides flavor, it is not a substitute for the fine flavor of well-fermented flour, and the role of salt is to enhance, and not take the place, of true bread flavor.

Salt tightens the gluten structure. The tightening gives strength to the gluten, enabling the dough to efficiently hold carbon dioxide, which is released into the dough as a byproduct of the yeast fermentation. When salt is left out, the resulting dough is slack and sticky in texture, work-up is difficult, and bread volume is poor.

Salt has a retarding effect on the activity of the yeast. The cell wall of yeast is semi-permeable, and by osmosis it absorbs oxygen and nutrients, as it gives off enzymes and other substances to the dough environment. Water is essential for these yeast activities. Salt by its nature is hygroscopic, that is, it attracts moisture. In the presence of salt, the yeast releases some of its water to the salt by osmosis, and this in turn slows the yeast’s fermentation or reproductive activities. If there is an excess of salt in bread dough, the yeast is retarded to the point that there is a marked reduction in volume. If there is no salt, the yeast will ferment too quickly. In this sense, the salt aids the baker in controlling the pace of fermentation. Nevertheless, we should note that a careful usage of yeast, control of dough temperature, and the type, maturity, and amount of preferment used are better tools for fermentation control. Salt quantity, as we have noted, should stay within the 1.8–2% range.

Salt indirectly contributes to crust coloring. This attribute is a result of the salt’s characteristic of retarding fermentation. Starch in the flour is converted into simple sugars by the amylase enzymes, and these sugars are consumed by the yeast as it generates fermentation. Since the salt is slowing the rate of the sugar consumption, more of what is known as residual sugar is available at the time of the bake for crust coloration. In the absence of salt, the yeast quickly consumes the available sugars, and the crust on the baked bread is pale and dull.

Salt helps preserve the color and flavor of flour. The carotenoid pigments, naturally present in wheat flour, are responsible for giving flour its creamy color and wheaty aroma. It is extremely important for the baker to understand that an unbleached flour, such as all of King Arthur’s flours, contains a complete profile of carotenoids, and that bleaching flour destroys these fragile components. For this reason alone, choosing a high quality unbleached and unbromated flour is preferred for all breadmaking. Other than bleaching flour and thereby destroying the carotenoids, overoxidizing of the dough during mixing, which occurs when a dough is mixed too intensively for too long, also destroys them. Salt has a positive effect on the preservation of carotenoids, because dough oxidation is delayed in the presence of salt. For this reason it is preferable to add salt at the beginning of the mix. In this way, salt benefits the eventual flavor of the bread by helping to preserve the carotenoids during the mixing of the dough. When salt is added during the later stages of dough mixing, it can be detrimental to the carotenoids, which may become overoxidized.

One other use of salt is useful to note. It is common to include a portion of salt in a levain culture during warmer and more humid months. This addition of salt, at a rate of 0.2–0.3%, retards the action of the natural yeast, and thus prevents over-maturing of the culture. In the preparation of German-style rye bread, there is a similar technique that is occasionally employed, called the Salt-Sour Method, in which all the dough salt is used in the sourdough phase. The result is to slow the activity of the sourdough yeast cells, reduce the production of acidity, and have a strengthening effect on the gluten structure.

Also, you may find this thread helpful.

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    This is interesting information, but the question was "is it possible". If from the long list we are supposed to conclude that it is impossible to make bread without salt, or that it is impossible for somebody to like bread made without salt, I very much disagree. If it is supposed to say something else, then I must have missed your point. – rumtscho Jul 13 '16 at 20:57
  • @rumtscho It sounds to me that the conclusion it comes to is that "There are many reasons to use salt in baking bread. Here are those reasons, and here's what you can expect if you don't use salt." I don't see a real, do-or-die prescription on the use of salt. – ebernard Jul 13 '16 at 23:03
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    @Waterbagel I dunno, without any notion of the scale of those effects, it comes across as implying they're all big enough to really matter, so if you don't use salt, you'll have bad flavor, overactive yeast, bad gluten development, and so on, when in reality it'll mostly just be bread that isn't salty. – Cascabel Jul 13 '16 at 23:10
  • @Jefromi fair enough! I see what you guys mean now. Thanks! – ebernard Jul 13 '16 at 23:16
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    Well, if you want to be technical about it you really cannot make a baguette without salt. There's a legal definition of what "French bread" is (found here cooksinfo.com/french-bread-law-1993) and you cannot legally call it a baguette if it is lacking or has additional ingredients. I believe that your answer is more in the spirit of the question, which is whether or not it is possible. As to my opinion on the matter I'll quote the inimitable Dr. Ian Malcolm in saying: "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should." – Terry Chern Jul 14 '16 at 2:24
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It is entirely possible. You leave out the salt and that's it, no other changes needed.

The preference for salt in bread is learned, at first it can be weird to get accustomed to it, but as time passes, you will find yourself being unpleasantly surprised when you happen to eat salted bread.

Salt does have effects beside those on the bread tasting salty, but they are not really that important. For example, the yeast is somewhat inhibited by salt, so the dough might take a tad less time to rise - but the same will happen if your house is a degree or two warmer today than last time, so unless you are using a fully controlled, tightly measured process, you won't even notice that. Terry's answer mentions more about the role of salt, but frankly, I have never missed those things explained there (I've been baking strictly salt free bread for the last year or so). So, is it possible? Yes, it is possible, and it is even tasty.

  • From what I understand, it's also regional. For example, I was told that they generally do not salt their bread in Northern Italy but they do in Southern Italy. – Catija Jul 13 '16 at 19:40
  • If you use a breadmaker you may need to further adapt (e.g. reduce the sugar as well - I use ~1/3 the salt and 1/2 the sugar for a super-quick program) or use a different program. – Chris H Jul 14 '16 at 15:58

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