Malts on the menu
We crave sweets, we Americans, but just as often, we’re told to eat foods that are natural and good for us. Home brewers know the sweet secret about malt extracts – they can add flavor, moisture, and flavors from caramel to chocolate – and they’re good for you, too.
Malt extracts are naturally nutritious sweeteners, contributing colors ranging from buttery gold to dark brown and black, to recipes – whether beer, baked goods, cereal, crackers, desserts, barbecue sauces, marinades, pancakes, waffles, malt vinegars and more.
Most of the malt extracts (powdered or liquid syrups) available in natural food stores are made from malted barley or malted brown rice. Malt extracts begin – as does barley malt used in brewing – by soaking the whole grains in water until soft and allowing the grains to sprout or germinate.
Judie Giebel, technical services, Briess Malts & Ingredients Co., Chilton, WI, explains, “At this point, we mash the germinated barley to retain the amylase, to create wort. We kettle cook it and if we’re making liquid malt extract (LME) we cook it to 86 percent solids, and if we are making dry malt extract (DME) we dehydrate the liquid syrup to form solids that are then ground into powder.” DME is not hopped because the dehydration removes hop compounds.
Homebrewers often use malt extracts that have been hopped to create a specific beer styles. But home cooks use malt extracts, or malt syrups, for sweetness without a sugary edge, compatible with savory breads, crackers, vegetables, mustards, and sauces. Because malt is essentially caramelized grain, it makes a wonderful match with nuts, mocha, cocoa and chocolate.
In the 1800s, malt was a staple of nutritional tonics, and malt syrups were thought to be especially good for babies. Malt-enhanced energy drinks such as the original form of Ovaltine were popular in England and Europe in the 1900s. But don’t confuse pure malt extract with malted milk, which is made of a blend of malt extract, wheat flour and whole milk. The malted milk powder used in fountain drinks was the invention of William and James Horlick, patented in Racine, Wisconsin in 1883.
Beer ice creams benefit from a swirl of caramel malt extract added to the ice cream maker as it freezes. “Briess’ CDW Sparkling Amber can be used in ice cream for smoothness,” says Judie Giebel. However, too much malt extract or wort can create a soft-serve, oozy texture to the dessert, so a light swirl is all that’s needed.
"It's a little tricky to make a smooth, creamy malt ice cream from reduced wort," said Darren Chadderdon, a former chef at Gordon Biersch's Palo Alto brewpub in a phone interview. "If there is too much, it will interfere with the fine ice crystal formation that you want in a frozen dessert." Guar gum is a natural ingredient that helps stabilize the crystal formation – I sometimes add just a half-teaspoon of guar gum to the custard base of frozen malted custard, to keep the dessert smooth and creamy in texture.
Giebel says, “Light LME (nondiastatic, made from base malt) is a wonderful natural sweetener not only for ice cream (as it helps control crystallization), but also in any food that can benefit from low sweetness plus malty flavor (breads, crackers etc.). Caramel LME (nondiastatic, made from base and caramel malts) is excellent in pizza crust and other breads and shaped rolls. At a usage rate of about 3% , it not only adds a hint of great flavor but enhances fermentation and improves browning and crumb. Dark LME (nondiastatic, made from base and dark roasted malts like black malt) can provide natural color to hearth breads, sauces, gravies, and all sorts of foods.”
Malt extract is a favorite secret ingredient of many professional bakers and pastry chefs. Diastatic malt powder or barley malt extracts are often used in professional bakeries to add nutrition, improve crumb texture and appearance, and enhance the keeping quality of the finished loaves. Breads that require second rises (pumpernickel, rye and other hearth breads) can benefit from a small dose.
That's because professional bakers evaluate bread by many characteristics beyond flavor and freshness. Breads are judged by their volume, symmetry, crust color, crust crispness, break and shred, grain, texture, aroma and mouth feel. Many bakers agree that adding diastatic malt to bread dough will contribute to yeast baking success.
A diastatic malt contains natural enzymes, mainly amylases and proteases. This type of malt acts as a dough conditioner “helps soften the dough, adds to the elasticity for shaping the dough (especially important in pizza crusts and crackers). In addition, the amylase also breaks down starch down into sugars, which helps feed the yeast and aids in browning. The proteases break the proteins in the flour down into amino acids, aiding yeast growth, as well as improving the flavor and aroma in breads.
Just replace a tablespoon of sugar or sweetener in your favorite bread recipe with a half-teaspoon of diastatic malt powder. Add malt extract to the warm water used to dissolve the yeast, stir till blended, and mix it into the dough for the first rise. “Just don’t use too much or the dough will lose its structure and liquify,” says Giebel.
Bernadette Wasdovitch, marketing manager, Briess Malts, uses finely ground biscuit malt or Munich malts, to add flavor to hearth breads. “I simply toss the whole kernel malt in my blender to turn it into flour,” she says.
But beware of adding too much malt extract or diastatic malt powder, since the increased yeast activity can cause problems. As homebrewers know, carbon dioxide and alcohol are the normal byproducts of yeast metabolism. Though alcohol is delightful in beer, it is less so in dough. The bread will be "overproofed," a baker's term that translates into gummy, sticky dough that's difficult to handle, and upon baking, yields a loaf that smells of alcohol, with a dense, unpalatable crust.
Non-diastatic malt is added simply as a sweetener or adding malt body, a hint of caramel color and flavor. With that in mind, be sure to use DME or unhopped malt extract. Briess Malts sells wholesale to homebrew distributors, such as GW Kent. Eden Natural Foods makes a food-grade unhopped amber malt extract as a sugar replacement. Packaged in a re-sealable jar, the product is more convenient for baking than opening a can of homebrew extract pre-measured to make a five-gallon batch of beer. You can find diastatic malt powder at baking supply stores or through the Baker's Catalogue (800-827-6836, or online at www.KingArthurFlour.com).
Malt extract also makes a superb natural substitute for sugar in marinades and barbecue sauces, as it contributes to browning, without the rapid burn or flare-ups from refined sugar. Malt in marinades will turn even the palest lobes of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a golden-browned and appetizing entrée. Here are recipes to inspire you into putting malt on the menu.
MALTED ICE CREAM
2 cups heavy cream
1 /2 cup milk
4 ounces dark beer (such as a bock or schwarzbier)
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
1 / 2 cup cane sugar
1 / 4 cup powdered milk
4 egg yolks
Whole vanilla bean, cut into two, inside seeds removed (about 1/2 teaspoon seed paste)
1 / 4 teaspoon guar gum (optional – helps ice cream ripen and crystallize smoothly)
In a large stainless-steel mixing bowl, whisk together cream, milk, beer, barley malt syrup, sugar, powdered milk, egg yolks, vanilla bean paste and a pinch of salt (less than 1/8 teaspoon). Whisk until smooth.
Place 2 cups water in a large, 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and when water is simmering, place the mixing bowl over the pan – the base of the bowl should fit securely inside the pan, but not sit in the hot water as the custard should be heated by steam alone.
Whisk the egg-beer-cream mixture continually over the steam until the blend is thickened and temperature reaches 180 F. Do not let water boil or the mixture will curdle. Remove from the heat and add guar gum if desired. Whisk well to blend, and then pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large glass bowl. Cool until lukewarm, and then cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the frozen ice cream in a large, resealable container and freeze for 6 hours, or until solid enough to scoop.
Makes 1 scant quart.
Note: David Lebovitz, in his cookbook, The Perfect Scoop (Ten Speed Press, 2007), recommends the addition of chopped malted milk balls to his version of malted ice cream, made with malted milk powder instead of barley malt extract. You can also spread the soft ice cream on sliced thin stout brownies to make ice cream bars, topped with malt chocolate ganache, assembled, sliced and frozen until firm.
MALT CHOCOLATE GANACHE
6 ounces dark Belgian chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsalted sweet cream butter, very fresh
2 tablespoons dark malt extract
1/4 cup caster sugar, sifted
Melt chocolate in top of double-boiler with whipping cream. Do not let boil or simmer, and stir until melted. Remove from heat. In a quart saucepan, melt butter with malt extract and sugar over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in the melted chocolate and cream until blended. Scrape mixture into a glass casserole dish, and allow to cool completely. Cover tightly and chill for 48 hours. Form into truffle shapes and roll in powdered sugar, ground chocolate malt or other couverture.
Makes about 36 one-inch round truffles
SPICED MALT-NUT CRUNCH
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons dark malt extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 /2 cup dark brown sugar
1 /4 cup cane sugar
1 / 2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shelled raw peanuts
1 cup shelled raw almonds
1/4 cup ground caramel malted barley (optional)
4 cups popcorn
In a large heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the butter, malt extract and sugar. Stir until butter melts and mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, without stirring, for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300 F. In a small bowl, mix together baking soda, ginger, pepper, and salt. Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda and spices, stirring well to blend evenly. Hot syrup will foam a bit. Stir in nuts and ground malted barley if using, mix well, and then stir in popcorn to coat evenly. Scrape mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet and spread evenly.
Bake 15-20 minutes, stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon so mixture toasts evenly. and remove from heat. Break into chunks once cool. The mixture will be a little sticky.
Makes 6 cups
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark ale
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons powdered mustard
1 / 2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/ 2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter; melted
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor on HIGH until smooth. Spoon mixture into the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering (not boiling) water until thickened and steaming, about 10 minutes, whisking often to prevent curdling. Let cool to room temperature, scrape mustard into a re-sealable, sterilized glass jar. Chill before serving. Mustard keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 2 scant cups mustard
MALTY MANGO MARINADE
This piquant blend of fresh mango, pureed with pilsner, lemon zest, and herbs, adds flavor and moisture to white, bland fish such as cod or haddock. Punch up the seasonings if using this marinade with a more robust, oily fish such as bluefish or shark.
1/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces pilsner
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/2 cup diced mango
2 teaspoons minced summer savory (fresh)
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons barley malt extract
1 teaspoon minced green scallion tops or chives (fresh)
1.5 to 2 pounds fish filets
Mix all the ingredients in a blender. Pour over fish placed in a glass or other nonreactive dish. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness of filet or until fish is opaque throughout and golden on the surface. Serve immediately.
PORTER PORK PAINT
1/2 cup butter
1 cup diced sweet onion
1/4 cup malt vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup barley malt extract
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons mild or hot paprika
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons white pepper
12 ounces porter
Combine all ingredients in a medium (two-quart) nonreactive saucepan and simmer 20 minutes. Puree with hand-held stick blender, or let cool and puree in a standard blender. Excellent on pork ribs. Yields about 3 cups.
MALTED HERB-CHEESE BREAD
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
12 ounces amber ale
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon malt extract
Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, by hand with a spatula (do not use an electric mixer). Mix just until batter forms. Scrape sides of bowl, stir, and scrape batter into a buttered bread loaf pan. Tap pan on the counter top to settle batter, and smooth top with spatula. Bake 45 minutes, or until loaf is well browned. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from baking pan. Loaf is crumbly in texture, better torn than sliced.
Makes 1 loaf
MALTED PRETZEL ROLLS
2 cups warm water (105°F- 110 F)
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
4.5 to 5 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 /2 teaspoon finely ground salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Kosher salt or pretzel salt for topping
6 cups water
3 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons dark malt extract
For best results, use a stand mixer to prepare the pretzel dough. Place 2 cups warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until yeast bubbles.
Place flour, sugar, and 1/ 2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk well until fluffy. Once yeast is ready, secure the bowl on the stand mixer, attach the dough hook, and add flour all at once. Mix on LOW until dough forms, then increase to MEDIUM to knead the dough until smooth, about 6-8 minutes.
Form dough into a ball, place in a large mixing bowl, oiled with 1.5 tablespoons canola oil, and turn ball to coat evenly in oil. Cover with a clean, damp tea towel, and let rest in a warm place until dough doubles, about 1 /2 hour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, coat paper with remaining vegetable oil, and set aside.
Punch down the dough and knead for 2 minutes. Divide dough in half, in half again, and repeat until you have 16 pieces; form into rectangular or oval rolls. Place rolls on the baking sheet and cut 4 (2-inch) diagonal slashes across the top of each. Cover with a damp towel and let dough rise in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F and bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large 2 qt. saucepan over high heat. Stir baking soda and malt extract into boiling water (water will foam up slightly). Using a slotted spoon, place doughy rolls, two at a time, in the boiling malted water. Turn and stir so rolls don’t stick together, and boil about 30 seconds on each side. With the slotted spoon, remove rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Repeat with remaining dough rolls. Sprinkle the boiled rolls well with kosher or pearl salt. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until well browned. Let cool to lukewarm and serve with butter and beer mustard.
NOTE: Kosher salt looks like small flakes, and pretzel salt looks like crushed nuggets of rock salt.
© 2009, Lucy Saunders, beercook.com