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"And malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man.".

What and where is it?

"Malt" is a term that's used for several related items. First and foremost it designates a cereal grain--usually barley, but also rye and wheat--that has been encouraged to sprout, and is then dried to stop its growth. This is called the "malting process"; it produces enzymes in the grain that are capable of converting starches into sugars. The end result is known as "diastatic" malt. In liquid or powdered form, diastatic malt is an ingredient appropriate for yeast leavened breads because it helps produce the sugar that feeds the yeast to make the dough rise. There are also non-diastatic malt powders and liquids that contain no active enzymes. These are used mainly as flavoring agents. Malt is also the common name for "maltose," the sugar that is derived form malted grain. Scotch whiskies are sometimes simply called "malts," as are milkshakes blended with malted milk.



Malted milk, which is a combination of ground malt, flour and dried milk, was invented as food for infants and invalids. Although there were similar formulas on the market, it was Horlick's Malted Milk that became famous for a variety or other uses. Invented in 1873 by James and William Horlick of Racine, Wisconsin, Horlick's Malted Milk "found favor among all age groups for its nutritional value and convenience. Admiral Richard E. Byrd thought it was the ideal sustenance on long journeys, and took t along on his Antarctic expeditions. When Walgreens drugstores began adding it to their chocolate milkshakes, people began enjoying it for its "taste. Malted milkshakes were soon available at soda fountains nationwide. Today malted milk is also an ingredient in malted milk balls, and in powdered drinks like Ovaltine.

Malt vinegar is another widely used malt product. To make it malted barley is soaked in water to allow its enzymes to convert the grain's own starch into maltose. Acid fermentation of the maltose produces vinegar. A traditional accompaniment for fish ond chips, malt vinegar is also used n Britain for making various pickles, most notably pickled walnuts. Its toasted flavor is also a good match for full-flavored meats.

While not as well known as malt vinegar or mailed milk, barley malt syrup is growing in popularity as an alternative, all-natural sweetener. Its appeal is in its rich, roasted malt flavor and lighter sweetness (it's about half as sweet as granulated sugar)

The secret's out

Malt isn't always a secret ingredient. In the U.S., the Malt-O-Meal cereal company has been selling its namesake product, a hot wheat cereal flecked with toasted ground barley malt, for almost 80 years. Among malt beverages, Denmark's Royal Unibrew bottles Vita Malt, a nonacoholic drink that is consumed on five continents. In parts of the Caribbean, Vita Malt is even more popular than cola.

Across tie world a few traditional recipes can be round "hat make malt the main focus of the dish. One is mammi, a Finnish Easter dessert. To prepare nammi, rye flour; rye malt; molasses; salt; and powdered orange peel are mixed with water to create a batter. This is then set aside to allow the malt enzymes to turn the flour's starch into sugar. In the post, this batter would have been baked in birch-bark containers, but today specially made cardboard boxes are standard Mammi as a Stick spreadable consistency and is served cold with cream and sugar.

Britain's malt loaf is another established favorite. It's a sweet, dense tea bread that includes in its ingredients liquid malt extract, treacle; brown sugar and either prunes or golden raisins. Some recipes use yeast for leavening, while others employ baking soda. Malt loaf, cut into slices and topped with butter, is generally eaten at least one day after it has been baked.

Malt powder is also the basis of traditional drinks in Korea and South Africa. Korea's malt drink is called "sikhye." To make it, barley malt powder is mixed with water and allowed to settle. The malt-infused water is skimmed off and poured over slightly undercooked rice. After sitting for a day in order for it to sweeten, it is brought to a simmer with ginger. The mixtures is then thoroughly chilled. Sikhye is often presented in a glass with a few grains of rice and garnish of pine nuts. South African "mageu" is a similar drink, made of maize meal and malt. Mageu gets its distinctive taste from lactic acid fermentation, much like Yogurt.

In the absence of malt

Malt's presence is everywhere and while it might not be as glamorous as more boisterous ingredients, in its elegantly subtle way, it plays an integral role in many of the products we enjoy. The majority of us might not appreciate malt on its own merits, but its absence would certainly be felt. For some, the day would be off to a rocky start without a steaming bowl of Malt-O-Meal. For others, the evening would not end properly without the smoky goodnight kiss of Scotch whiskey. Still others would feel malt's absence without the chill of a milkshake to cool down a sweltering summer day. Would fish and chips have risen to such prominence in Britain without the spirited kick of malt vinegar? Would candy taste as sweet if malted milk balls were not part of the sugary equation? And for many, life would not taste as appetizing without a refreshing malt-kissed beer to wash it all down.

Malt has been around for millennia, and when one stops to consider the integral role it plays in so many of the recipes and ingredients we enjoy around the world, it is little wonder why. We might never pause to consider the important role malt plays in our lives and at our tables, but perhaps we should. We would certainly notice the absence of this humble ingredient that plays such a vital all too often secret, role in our lives.

To many, malt is familiar as a main ingredient in the making of BEER and WHISKY. Less familiar is malt's subtle presence in many different foods, such as BREAD, BAGELS, PIZZA DOUGH, CRACKERS, PRETZELS, BREAKFAST CEREALS, ENERGY BARS and CANDY.

It's found in so many places, chances are most people consume malt every day without realizing it.

What is malt, and what exactly does it taste like? AC examines exactly what malt is so we can finally give it the recognition it deserves.

From "Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff" by A.E. HOUSMAN
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Author:Housman, A.E
Publication:Art Culinaire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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