Peter Koehler of the German Research Center for Food Chemistry at the Leibniz Institute and Hans-Dieter-Belitz-Institute for Cereal Grain Research and colleagues found that simply making the pores, or holes, larger can make people perceive bread as having saltier taste.
The process could become a new strategy for reducing people's intake of salt, which adds to the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, Koehler said.
Koehler and colleagues explained every day, people in industrialized countries consume, on average, twice as much salt as the World Health Organization recommends and much of that salt -- 35 percent in the United Kingdom and about 25 percent in Germany -- comes from bread.
Cutting dietary salt would reduce people's risk of developing high blood pressure, which has been diagnosed in 40 percent of adults age 25 and older worldwide, and heart disease -- the cause of 30 percent of all deaths in 2008, the researchers said.
Researchers tried different methods, such as using salt substitutes, but only to limited effect. Studies on cheese showed changing texture can make a product taste salty even if salt content is reduced, so Koehler's team decided to see if this would work with bread.
The researchers baked bread using different proofing times -- proofing is when a baker lets the dough rise. Longer proofing times led to softer breads with larger pores.
The study subjects rated the fluffier bread with the longest proofing time as noticeably more salty, even though it contained less salt.
"Appropriate modification of crumb texture thus leads to enhanced saltiness, suggesting a new strategy for salt reduction in bread," the researchers wrote in their study.
The findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.