Salt plays a major role in the final appearance of bakery products.

Salt plays a role not only in yeast stabilization, structure building and flavor but also in the look of a product. Whether it’s providing a visual aesthetic as a topping or the actual color of the product, appearance is another way salt can contribute to the finished goods.

Consumers come to expect a certain amount of browning on the outside of baked goods. Without salt, that browning can still be achieved, but with salt’s help the desired brown color can be achieved faster. Pretzels contain salt in the dough, and they are dipped in a weak sodium hydroxide solution before baking to achieve that signature pretzel crust and color. “Here, you have a really critical role in browning done by a sodium-based compound,”said Janice Johnson, PhD, food applications leader, Cargill Salt.

Salt not only contributes to browning, but topping salts also add visual appeal. These salts are typically coarser than their dough salt counterparts because their main advantage is consumers being able to see them on the product’s surface. Finer flakes can dissolve too quickly, which causes functionality issues such as excessive ovenspring, bubbles, open blisters and brown or burnt spots when the product goes through the oven.

The appeal topping salt brings to a product enhances visual appearance, which bolsters the overall eating experience for consumers. After all, we eat first with our eyes, then our mouths.

“A flake salt applied topically can intensify the salt flavor on a consumer’s palate," said Megan O’Keefe, media relations, SaltWorks. Topical salt adds eye appeal, flavor and extra texture too. “For example, sel gris sprinkled atop a French-style pastry enhances its world appeal and balances rich, butter notes with a delicate crunch and pop of salty flavor,” she continued.

Don’t underestimate this micro ingredient’s impact on baked goods of all kinds. No matter whether they are yeast-raised or chemically leavened, sweet or savory, all baked goods need salt to deliver the taste, texture and mouthfeel consumers expect.