In chemistry lab, we were taught this rule: Do not pour water into
The reason for the rule is that introducing the first drop of water
(or similarly benign fluid) into acid can potentially unleash all the
chemical energy the acid has to offer, resulting in splattering or
worse unpleasantries. Pouring the acid into the water, however, means
that the first drop of acid is diluted in a virtual swimming pool of
water, and while the rest of the acid is poured in, the mixture
slowly rises to the desired acidic concentration. The process is con-
trolled and not as prone to splattering.
The bottom line is that we never want to subject an unsuspecting water
droplet to a high concentration of acid nasties.
I wonder if similar reasoning could be applied to our yeast and salt
mixing debate. One yeast cell happening across a teaspoonful of salt
is probably a bad situation for the yeast since, like the splattering
acid, the entire salt deposit is free to do its worst. But if the salt
is first dissolved in liquid, or at least dispersed in some flour,
I'll bet its destructive power is reduced, and more yeast would sur-
vive such encounters.
That said, I propose that Irwin modify the yeast and salt experiment:
1. Put 1 teaspoon yeast into each water glass
2. Add 1 teaspoon sugar to each glass
3. Add 1 teaspoon salt to ONE glass
4. Add only a tablespoon of warm water to each glass
5. After a minute or two, fill each glass halfway with warm water
6. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt into the OTHER glass
8. Wait 15 minutes
With this modification, I think we better model the case in which
yeast and salt, side by side at the bottom of an ABM bread pan,
receive a small amount of moisture (the lion's share of which was
absorbed by the flour) before finally being stirred up and evenly
distributed by the kneading cycle.
I think the oft-suggested solution of separating the yeast and salt
by putting the flour in between them works because by the time our
unsuspecting yeast cell encounters some salt, the salt is no longer
a highly concentrated deposit, but a lone granule adrift in a sea of
Does this make any sense at all? I dreamed it up in the office;
I didn't get to try it out in the kitchen.
(By the way, I really like this list...keep up the great work!)