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A marriage of fiber and flavor.

New uses for malt as specialty bread market heats up.

Malt. It brings to mind an icy beer brimming over with foam - not too surprising, considering that 95 percent of the malt produced is used in beer. It's the other 5 percent, though, that's warming up the baking industry.

Malted grains are finding their way into specialty breads and whole-grain cereals like granola and muesli, adding fiber, color and flavor to these products. The practice of using malted grains in cereals and bakery goods is typically European, but it's enjoying renewed favor on this side of the Atlantic, spurred by the growth of the specialty bread market.

Edme Ltd. of Essex, England, hoping to capitalize on this trend, began exporting its unique line of malted grains to the United States at the end of 1994. Not that long ago, in the early '70s, the majority of Edme's business was linked to the brewing industry. But the company decided to shift its focus, and today 90 percent of sales are to the food industry.

In addition to barley - which is the most commonly malted grain because of its role in brewing - Edme malts rye, wheat and oats. Each of the grains has its own distinctive flavor and color when malted. "We've identified a niche," says Jess Anderson, Edme's business development manager. "To my knowledge, we're the only company in the United States supplying malted grains other than barley to the baking industry. Reaction to the products has been very positive. The requirement for natural, functional ingredients is universal."

"People want firm, chewy breads with flavor," says Paul Stitt, president of Natural Ovens, Manitowoc, Wis. "We use malted flour in all our breads. Malt has a wonderful aroma and taste. It reminds people of home - it's a nostalgia thing." Natural Ovens has been using malted flour in its breads for almost 10 years, and Stitt sees consumer attitudes shifting more toward breads with real depth and aroma. Malt adds this with its slightly sweet, nutty flavor profile.

"People see it [malted flour and grains] as more organic, more down-to-earth," says Rob Ostrander, research and development chemist, ConAgra Inc., Omaha, Neb., who uses malted flours in his product development work. "It gives more of a toasted note and brown color to breads." He also finds that when used in whole-wheat products, malt masks some of the natural bitter characteristics.

What's old is new

"Malt's role in the bakery industry began more than 100 years ago when malt flours and extracts were used to improve crumb structure and bloom (the sheen on crusty bread)," says Anderson. "Since then, eating habits have changed dramatically, fueling demand for malt, which is perceived as a healthy, natural, rich-tasting ingredient."

"Malted flour has been used in the baking industry for years," agrees Susanne Stoeger-Moore, technical engineer, Briess Industries Inc. Food Division, Chilton, Wis. "It's a traditional style of baking that Americans got away from and are just now rediscovering - it's naturally functional and healthy. Europeans have never stopped using these malted grains."

Actually, the art of malting began with the ancient Egyptians. Although the malting process today is very controlled, the basic principles remain the same. To make malt, grain is moistened so it will begin to sprout, and then it's dried to suspend the germination process. After that, it's ground into flour or further processed into flakes or kibble.

Modern day maltsters closely monitor processing conditions for quality, and to regulate the degree of malting necessary for particular application specifications. Shortening or lengthening the process can change the enzyme activity of the grains, as well as alter their flavor and color. Low-enzyme active malt flours provide yeast foods and browning compounds at a much lower rate, but have a higher flavor level than their high-enzyme counterparts.

Highly enzyme-active malt flours are generally very light in color and have a low flavor level. When used in bread dough, the natural amylase enzymes in the malt flour break down starch to produce maltose and other sugars. The proteinase enzymes break down proteins to amino acids. These sugars and amino acids act as yeast foods, enhancing yeast performance during fermentation - shortening the proofing time for the dough.

The sugars act in tandem with the protein in bread flour to form natural browning and aroma compounds that give a uniform crust color and wonderful yeast flavor and smell, says Stoeger-Moore. Enzyme-active malt flours also act as a dough conditioner, relaxing the dough in high-fiber formulations. Water is able to be more uniformly distributed through the dough piece, adding to the shelf life of breads, she adds.

"The big thing," says Stitt, "is that it keeps bread feeling moist the second and third day after baking." This is important in the ultimate shelf life of the bread.

Flakes and kibble add to the hearty textures and flavors of specialty breads while providing a natural source of fiber. These heavier-textured malted grains can be used in concert with malted flours at rates of up to 25 percent of flour weight. The malting process makes the grain more easily crumbled and able to absorb water readily, so there's no need to soak it prior to use. High processing temperatures deactivate the enzymes in the kibble and flakes; if left active, the enzymes would react with the flour in the dough with calamitous results.

And from a nutritional angle, these malted products have high carbohydrate levels with significant percentages of fiber and protein and low fat contents.

Functional aspects aside, malted grains give bakers a way to get more fiber into bread without compromising flavor while maintaining a clean label. "They don't want chemicals, artificial flavors or enhancers on their label," says Ostrander. "They want a clean label."
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Title Annotation:malt in breads
Author:Kevin, Kitty
Publication:Food Processing
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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