Bread baked to a fluffier texture tastes saltier than more dense counterparts of the dietary staple, a new study shows (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf403304y). This discovery might prove useful for lowering the salt content in bread—the highest single source of sodium in the U.S. diet.
Health experts have long advocated a reduced-sodium diet as one way to prevent cardiovascular disease. And food chemists are rising to the challenge of creating more low-salt foods.
But reducing salt in bread is not easy. Sodium chloride affects the activity of yeast, and it extends shelf life in addition to other benefits. Plus people like the taste better. Salt substitutes haven’t worked that well.
The research indicates that the flavor issue in low-salt bread can be addressed via texture. Peter Koehler of the German Research Center for Food Chemistry decided to examine how texture affects the perception of saltiness in yeast breads. Koehler and center colleague Katharina Konitzer, along with Tabea Pflaum and Thomas Hofmann of the Technical University of Munich, altered the texture of yeast bread by varying the time dough was allowed to rise, or ferment. “You have very big pores in bread that’s fermented for a long time and small pores in nonfermented bread,” Koehler explains.
A professional taste panel rated the perceived saltiness of the experimental breads. The team, meanwhile, measured sodium ion release from the bread as a function of time as it was being eaten under highly controlled conditions.
Each loaf of bread in the experiment contained the same amount of salt by weight. But the tasters consistently rated the large-pored bread as having a saltier taste. This bread also released sodium to the tongue more rapidly. However, when panelists chewed samples designed to release sodium at similar rates, the fluffier bread still tasted saltier. Koehler attributes this to the bread’s texture. It may be possible to bake low-salt bread that tastes “normal” simply by letting the dough rise longer, Koehler says.
Paul A. S. Breslin, who studies taste perception at Rutgers University, cautions that the idea of dietary salt reduction is controversial. He notes that what will make or break this strategy is the bread’s overall taste, of which saltiness is only one part. “I would like to know which breads are yummier,” he says.