Why and when should Diastatic Malt be used, but more importantly, what is the right dose?

29 Jun 2024 | the Diastatic Malt | 0 comments

I begin this article by starting at the end:

malt is ALWAYS used because it is BEST used.

Although it might seem so, this sentence is not a commercial but a sacred truth, provided you use a pure diastatic extract and have the skills to do so.
I give a practical example: if I add a very small percentage of diastatic extract, say 0.5 percent on the weight of the flour, I will have a more stable leavening with immediate start, the dough structure will be better, the color after baking will be more golden and uniform, the crust thin and the aroma more intense. Often they are improvements visible only to more attentive eyes, but there is no question that they will be there.

When is the use of malt not recommended?

It depends… depends on many factors, primarily the type of malt and the method used. For example, it would be inadvisable to use it in a dough with gelatinized rye, because we already have an important enzyme and sugar supply given by the rye gel. Or it is most inadvisable to add malted flour to a short-rising direct dough. It is also risky to use it in the preparation of Biga or mother dough because it becomes more difficult to handle, but in these two cases it then becomes essential to use it in the refreshment (i.e., the last dough).

But then when is it MANDATORY to use it?

Certainly in doughs with high acidity, where large doses of Biga, sourdough or sourdough are used. And then in typical regional recipes such as Focaccia Genovese, or special breads. But also to improve flours with low enzyme activity, where the much-loved malt powder finds its only justifiable place.
To recapitulate, 0.5 percent malt extract can be added anywhere and we will never go wrong, while doses between 2.5 and 3.5 percent (in case of strong acidity we can go as high as 5 percent), but the hardest thing is to figure out what will be the right percentage to get what we want, without exceeding the dose and risking worsening what we will have wanted to improve instead.

First of all, we need to be very clear about which is the ideal malt to use(see article), after that we need to evaluate its impact according to the rising time and finally we need to evaluate the level of acidity of the preferment (in the case of indirect dough, with Biga, with sourdough or with sourdough).
In many years of consulting, I have repeated to the point of exhaustion that there is no set dose to use, but that we must try and try again, to fully understand the reaction in the dough structure based on the dose used. Basically, we almost always start from 0.5-1% up to 2-2.5%, so we increase by 0.5% more or less with each dough and watch the result, not only at the end of baking but also during the processing steps.

Let us now try to understand WHY we should use malt, especially in doses above the canonical 0.5-1%.

  • TASTE:
    Malted barley imparts a more intense aroma to the bread and focaccia and enhances the savoriness. And undoubtedly the ingredient that most of all can give strong flavors, cover or even overpower that flour taste typical of white breads, but also in pastry products. In special, fiber-rich breads it gives prominence to the aromas, and in focaccias it becomes the ingredient that can make the difference, to the point that in the Genovese one it starts at 2.5 percent and goes up, and it is no accident that it is the most famous focaccia in the world. Think about the fact that Liguria is the Italian region with the highest per capita consumption of Malt Extract of all, and probably taking away the consumption given by the food industries, even adding up the consumption of all regions would not be able to surpass Liguria. If you have tried adding malt to your dough in the past and have not noticed improvements in taste and aroma, go and reread the ingredients of what you used-I opened the topic “TASTE” by writing “malted barley” and not “malt……..”

    that malt extract provides an aesthetic improvement is a given, even without the expertise needed to achieve increased development or a more pronounced alveolus, we will always get a golden color and a thinner crust. If you do not notice any difference between one of your doughs without malt and one with malt there are only two explanations: either you have the wrong type of malt or you have made the wrong choice of rising times and flour.
  • PROCESSING: malt extract is highly valued in pizzerias, bakeries and pastries because it allows for much more extensible doughs. It also ensures a more stable and prolonged leavening, containing the development of acidity and a natural stiffening of gluten. All of this allows the dough to be worked better with longer margins of time than a dough without malt, a very important situation in pizzerias where the loaf must stand for hours without collapsing during the entire evening..

    this aspect is also much debated on the net, I will tell you an anecdote: one day I was contacted by a pizza maker who asked me if the merit of a more pronounced alveolus could be attributed to the use of malt alone. My answer was what I always give, which is, “It depends.” If you use a direct method without any expertise in the field, you are unlikely to notice any significant development given by malt alone. But if you have the right expertise and want to make an indirect method bread with 100% Biga, if you don’t use a good diastatic malt extract you will never get the result you are looking for.

    That of digestibility is a very complex topic, and it would be wrong to attribute miraculous gifts to malt in this regard. Only good all-around expertise can ensure digestibility of a baked product, but there is no doubt that malt can help with this as well. First and foremost because of the stimulation of leavening, which allows the yeasts to “consume” the sugars present, but above all because of the supply of proteolytic enzymes that give products that are more melt-in-your-mouth and fragrant, thus easier to chew and faster to digest
  • CONSERVATION: The normal preservatives used by the food industry are sugar-based and enzyme-based (the latter unfortunately are often chemical in origin). Diastasic Malt Extract is a natural product composed of sugars and enzymes, need we add more?

On this site you will find a handy CALCULATOR and a “pyramid” that will give you approximate doses based on some of the variables involved.
Go to Active Calculator
This is an empirical calculation that can provide nothing more than initial advice. However, the right dose can never be found in a book or on a website, but only in your studies. On the net you will find videos of self-styled White Art “experts” telling you everything and the opposite of everything about the conditions of use, the amount and how to calculate it. I guarantee that most of the information is the product of pure imagination, at times hilarious…

However, I want to give you some guidelines to follow in calculation: We said that you can use it to improve taste, color, fragrance and shelf life. Conditions in which we don’t run great risks if we use 1 percent instead of 3 percent, but if we want to use it as “medicine” in our mixture, and I guarantee you that in some situations a good Diastatic Extract can be compared to Tachipirin when you have the flu, then it becomes critical to have good expertise.
You will gain this competence only by trying, failing and trying again. In the case of complex processing methods, the figure for calculating the ideal dose is based primarily on the actual acidity of our pre-ferment, whether Biga, Natural Yeast or Sourdough. The more our pre-ferment has gone “la” with rising, the higher the dose of Malt Extract to be used, while decreasing the resting time before processing.
To give you a practical example, my last dough of the day consisted of using all the leftovers from the daily doughs, refreshed ONLY with a large dose of Malt Extract (even 5 percent or more on the weight of the dough). When I finished kneading I would proceed with forming the loaves almost immediately, let them rise before baking, and I would get an amazing bread, to the point that customers would come late in the morning just to be sure to find this bread that smelled great, was light and would keep for a long time.


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