Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Salt vs. Sourdough: The Battle

I figured out today just how temperamental yeast - any yeast - can be when exposed to a vast quantity of salt. My stepfather has a major "salt tooth", and when I made my classic sourdough boule the last time he lamented the lack of seasoning, even asking my mother if I put salt in the dough (he thought I was asleep on the couch at the time after being sick all night, but alas, I was still awake! Ah, the things you learn...). Frustrated yet again that I had failed to please the discerning palate of my stepdad, which also eschews garlic, onions and anything less than whole milk, I vowed to find a recipe that was salty enough for him, even if I had to add an entire box of it and jeopardize his blood pressure (which is always low anyway).

Though I did add salt to that boule, it was half the amount I used for these tiny buns that are reminiscent of the Filipino pan de sal (quite literally, salt bread). I say these are reminiscent of pan de sal as even though it mimics the characterstic breadcrumb shell, it differs in make-up from both the historical (lean) dough and the more modern style, which is enriched with eggs, milk and lard. I know lard is traditional in a lot of South-East Asian (and Southern U.S.) cooking, but I cannot bring myself to allow it into my kitchen. Sorry!

Instead, I settled on a recipe halfway between the two extremes - butter, not lard, a pinch of sugar and my handy sourdough starter being the main players. I made tiny buns this time around for taste test purposes (and a perfect addition to Bread Baking Day at My Diverse Kitchen this month!), but if they're a hit I'll make the sandwich-sized ones my recipe calls for. These do take a long time to rise though - the salt heavily tempers the sourdough yeast, so what was a 1 1/2 hour rise for the boule ended up being almost a 12 hour (first) rise for the pan de sal. The second rise was almost 3 hours, but it was worth it - these mini crispy-edged pillows melt in your mouth.

Sourdough Pan De Sal Rolls
Serves 8
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup recently fed sourdough starter
2 tbsp melted, salted butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  1. Combine 1 cup bread flour, the whole wheat flour, salt and sugar until well blended.
  2. Combine the starter, butter and water, blend into the dry mix.
  3. Add in the rest of the flour gradually, while mixing, until dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl.
  4. Let rise, covered, until doubled - can be up to 12 hours.
  5. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape into rolls. Brush each with water.
  6. Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish and dip rolls until coated well.
  7. Arrange on lightly greased baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
  8. Let rise 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
  9. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  10. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, and serve warm or room temperature.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 232.7
Total Fat: 4.1 g
Cholesterol: 7.6 mg
Sodium: 71.3 mg
Total Carbs: 42.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.0 g
Protein: 7.1 g

What's even better about this particular recipe is that it's a great method of culinary recycling - the crumb coat layer is pulverized bits of previous loaves we just couldn't get to in time! Normally we save them all in the freezer for Thanksgiving turkey, but now that I'm making a lot more bread we have a lot more ends! Yay for waste-free cooking!

A timely addition to my waste-free post, though, is this wonderful gift that I recieved from my publisher, FoodBuzz! Organic, sturdy cotton woven into a handy shopping bag perfect for those emergency grocery runs! Thanks FoodBuzz!


  1. I'm glad you managed to find a solution to your stepfather's salt tooth and turn out such lovely rolls.
    Happy to include it in BBD #12

  2. Who knew salt could have such an effect on yeast and rising? But it looks like they came out pretty much perfect anyway!

  3. Yep - salt dehydrates the yeast; it sucks the moisture out of them, and won't let them thrive.

    My solution has been to leave the salt fairly low inside the dough itself, but to roll the dough in crushed sea-salt, if I need it to be salty. That way you get the salt flavour, but don't have to harm your yeast to get it. ;)

    I'm glad you didn't do the lard thing - I saw your photos go by on your Flickr feed and I did a double-take, 'cause I didn't think you were into the critter-bits.

  4. Mmm pan de sal. Pretty cool that you chose a filipino bread! I love making this stuff at home, although not with sourdough.


Thanks for the feedback!