What Is Malt Flour And How To Use It For Bread

How is malt flour used in bread baking?
Published on
07 January 2022
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

You may have seen malt flour in a bread recipe or packaging ingredients. It’s one of the most common dough improvers in home and commercial bread baking. One reason is that it’s a natural product and is easy to source. Search for “malt flour” on Amazon, and you’ll find many brands and sizes (or click this link).

If you have questions such as “what is malt flour” or “how to use malt flour in bread?” this guide is for you.

What is malt flour made from?

Malt flour is made from malting barley. Barley grain is harvested and left to sprout in water. After the barley has sprouted, it is then dried. Once the grains have dried out, they are ground into a powder and packaged as malt flour.

The role of amylase

During drying, the malt produces an abundance of the amylase enzyme. Amylase is an enzyme that works as a catalyst (an accelerant) to break down a starch called amylose. The other starch found in flour is amylopectin. Both alpha-amylase and beta-amylase work together, performing slightly different duties to break down amylose and amylopectin.

The action of amylase means each amylose molecule is broken down into simple sugars, maltose and glucose. Amylopectin is broken down into glucose, as is the produced maltose. Yeast cells process the glucose sugars to produce carbon dioxide alongside other yeast fermentation properties.

Dextrin is a water-binding carbohydrate produced when amylase is active in bread dough. Dextrin is also a popular additive in soft bread itself as it binds water to produce a softer and more moist crumb.

Is amylase safe to eat?

Of course, adding enzymes and products to bread recipes you’d not normally find in your kitchen cupboards, sounds scary. However, amylase is perfectly safe to eat. It already exists in flour and is also produced (at a low rate) by yeast cells. By adding malted barley flour to a recipe, you are just adding more of an existing ingredient.

How is malt flour used for baking bread?

Every type of flour is different, depending on the wheat grown, its growing conditions and growth at the point of harvest.

When flour is deemed to have low hypodiastic activity, it will be slow to break down starch into sugars, making dough rise slowly.

How does malt flour improve bread?

By including diastatic malt in a bread recipe that uses low hypodiastic flour, sugars can be broken down quickly, making the bread rise faster during its first and second rises.

Enhanced oven spring is also expected as sugars are available to feed the yeast during the early stages of baking, accelerating the rise.

Dextrins produced form a softer and more moist texture to the bread by bonding water.

As diastatic malt flour speeds up the supply of sugars, it’s a popular way to increase access to sugars for accelerated yeast fermentation -without the extra calories of adding sugar.

Because of the extra sugars, the colour of the baked crust becomes darker, with a notable reddish tan found when malt powder is used in high quantities. Extra crust browning due to Maillard processes perfume the loaf and enhances flavour.

Malt flour also improves the shelf life of bread, keeping it fresher for longer.

Being reasonably high in protein (7-10%), malt offers binding properties similar to gluten.

Malt flour is in baked goods like pastries, pies, muffins, and more.

Types of malt flour available:

Diastatic (activated) malt flour

Diastatic malt flour is ground malt powder and contains a high quantity of amylase. Its purpose is to improve the flour and the quality of the dough. It is not a substitute for regular flour and must be used in small quantities to avoid negative effects.

Non-diastatic (deactivated) malt flour

This type of malt flour is kiln-dried to deactivate the amylase enzyme. Non-diastatic malt is used for flavour in bread and other bakery products.

It’s extremely rich in the reducing sugar, maltose (a polymer of two glucose sugars). This sweetens the bread and browns the crust. The flavour of non-diastatic malt flour is a slightly sweet, roasted-nut smell, perfect for wholesome baking styles.

Deactivated malt flour is added in bolder quantities. Its richer flavour is often complemented with other sweet flavours like sugar, beer, seeds or rye. It is usually 40% as sweet as sucrose, so is often used in sweet bread types.

It’s popular in seeded loaves and shortly-fermented bread, providing a warming, mature flavour. A bitter taste is left on the palate if too much is added to a recipe.

Cereal amylases

Cereal amylases are sometimes listed as an ingredient in wheat flour. They are added to improve the hypodiasticity of weak flour and are often a form of activated malt flour, but they can be sourced from other processes, such as fruit.

When to use malt flour for baking bread

Diastatic malt flour has three core uses:

  1. Activated malted barley flour can be added at the mill to improve bread flour quality. You may notice this on some flour sacks in the ingredients list.
  2. Included at the start of dough mixing to accelerate the rise of quickly fermented bread.
  3. When prefermented flour is used in longer bulk fermentation cycles, malt flour is incorporated when the preferment is added for mixing to keep the fermentation rate consistent. I learned this advanced trick from Raymond Calvels’ The Taste Of Bread (I recommend this book if you’re an experimental baker!).

Non-diastatic malt can replace a portion of the wheat flour in a bread recipe.

How much malt flour to use in bread dough

Using the baker’s percentage, based on the total weight of flour used, recommended dosage levels of malt flour are:

Diastatic malt flour: 0.2 – 9%

Non-diastatic malt flour: 0.5-2.5%

Bread typeRecommended baker’s percentage
Crusty rolls1.25 %
Wheat rolls2.7 %
Light rye bread0.5 %
Pumpernickel1.6 %
White pan bread0.5 – 1.5 %
Sweet goods1.5 – 3.0 %
French/Italian bread0.5 – 2.0%
Whole wheat bread5.0 – 9.0% 
Sourdough bread0.2 -1%
Source: https://bakerpedia.com/ingredients/diastatic-malt/

Can I use too much diastatic malt flour?

When too much diastatic malt flour is used, excessive sugar is developed. Sugars retain water and inhibit water supply to the yeast cells due to osmosis. The result of over-use is an excessively gummy bread crumb and a slow rise of the bread.

When using malt flour for the first time, start with only a small amount and gradually increase it based on your findings.

Is malt flour suitable for every type of bread?

As yeast provides amylase, adding malt flour to every bread dough is not essential.

A little malt flour will speed up the process of sourdough production, as in sourdough bread, lactic bacteria outnumber the yeast cells in the starter, meaning starch is slower to break down into sugars.

Many bakers find prefer a longer bulk fermentation over the use of malt flour as more flavour and structural benefits are found. In this line of thought, malt flour can decrease the quality of sourdough bread.

When making long-fermented bread, malt flour is a sensible consideration for remedying a slow rise. Having said this, I prefer to look at raising the proofing temperature or increasing the activity of the sourdough starter first. An exclusion to this rule is when using a preferment.

If preparing quickly made bread, malt flour will enhance aerobic respiration to make lighter, softer bread.

In all cases, remember that too much malt flour will lead to a gummy crumb!

Is malt flour healthy?

Nutrition of malt flour
Source: https://foodstruct.com/food/malt

Malt flour is gaining popularity among health-conscious bakers. It is gluten free, high in fibre and contains minerals such as; magnesium, potassium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and a high quantity of vitamin B-12. Its sweet flavour works as a replacement for sugar in a recipe.

Malt flour can also be helpful for people with diabetes. It has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This makes it a good choice for people looking for healthy ways to control their diabetes.

Where can I buy malt flour?

Malt flour can often be found in health food shops, but you’ll often find it online at a lower price. You can find my choice of diastatic malt flour and non-diastatic malt flour on Amazon by clicking the links.

How to store malt flour?

It is best to store malt flour in an airtight container to prevent it from becoming stale. It can be kept for several months, but after that time has passed, its flavour will diminish and should no longer be used.

Conclusion – Do I need malt flour in bread?

Malt flour is a crucial ingredient in malted bread. Aside from this, it’s not vital to include it. If you don’t have any on hand or don’t want to bother buying it, use high-quality bread flour.

Frequently asked questions about malt flour

What can I use instead of malt flour?
If you’re looking for an alternative to malt flour, there are a few things you can try using oat flour instead of malt flour. Oats are naturally sweet, so they will add more sugar to your recipe. You could also try a teaspoon of table sugar per loaf to speed up yeast fermentation.
Is malt flour gluten-free?
Malt flour is not gluten-free, so it should not be used in recipes meant for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, if you do not have any allergies or sensitivities to gluten, malt flour can be a healthy addition to your diet.
How is malt flour used to make beer?
Malt flour is primarily used in the brewing process to make whiskey and beer. It gives rich dark beers those strong powerful, yet sweet flavours. Sometimes malt flour is also toasted to give the beer an even darker colour and richer flavour.
Are malted barley and malt flour the same?
Malted barley and malt flour are both made from germinated barley grains, but the two terms are not quite interchangeable. Malted barley is simply germinated barley grain. Malted barley flour, otherwise known as malt flour is made by drying malted barley and grinding it into flour.
Is Marmite made from malt flour?
No, malt flour is not Marmite. Malt flour is a type of flour that is made from germinated barley. Marmite is a food spread made from yeast extract with a dark brown colour, and a strong, salty flavour. Malt flour has a similar strong flavour but is made with different ingredients.

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