Natural carriers in bread and pastry making.
MALTED GRAIN FLOURS WITH GOOD DIASTATIC POWER: natural carriers in bread and pastry making. Regulators for flours with low enzymatic activity.
CARAMEL BARLEY MALT FLOUR: natural colouring that gives bread a warm, golden colour.
ROASTED BLACK BARLEY MALT FLOUR: natural colouring that gives bread grey to brown shades.
Our body cannot handle grains in their original untreated state because – like a number of legumes – they need to be prepared first to release the nutrients our body needs. Man has employed a variety of techniques since ancient times to overcome the problem, including soaking, germinating, fermentation and cooking.
Malt comes from the germination of cereal grains by means of a process known as “malting”. The grains are left to soak in lukewarm water until they start to sprout. Growth environment conditions are controlled closely: air temperature, water temperature and germination time are adjusted to allow the grain to develop its maximum usable biochemical content. In due course, the grains are dried, separated from the sprout and ground.
This warm, humid environment promotes the complex chemical reactions that initiate life: it triggers all the enzymes – i.e. biomolecules – that allow the biochemical reactions to take place and speeds them up in order to create the nourishment required for the future seedling to grow. The enzymes we are interested in are alpha- and beta-amylases, which convert starch molecules into simpler molecules, like dextrins, glucose and, ultimately, maltose, which serve to provide readily assimilable nourishment for the seedling’s growth. Also of interest, albeit to a lesser degree, are proteases, which break down proteins into simpler and more assimilable forms (including, as we will see later, gluten).
Malting does not end until maltose concentrations in the grain have peaked. Maltose and glucose are the only fermentable sugars. The process whereby starch in the cereal grain is broken down reproduces what happens in our own digestive system: what actually happens here is the enzymes in the human body, such as ptyalin (which is also found in saliva) and pancreatic amylase, first convert the starch (in this case, cooked starch) into dextrins and then into maltose. Only then does a third enzyme, maltase, cleave the maltose into two glucose molecules. This is why starches, namely carbohydrates, are called “complex sugars”: assimilated slowly, they have to be broken down into simpler molecules before they can be assimilated and converted into the vital energy that keeps us running.
When the grains are then ground, what we ultimately end up with is so-called diastatic malt flour, which – as we have seen – is rich in valuable chemical components, such as enzymes and simple sugars: these elements play an essential role in facilitating the wheat flour dough fermentation process.
THE BENEFITS OF USING DIASTATIC MALT FLOUR IN YEAST-RAISED DOUGH
Malt flour is not an improver, rather a natural fermentation aid, suitable for “green label” goods and products with no added sugar.
When added to organically fermented dough – usually in a small percentage – the natural alpha-amylase and beta-amylase enzymes break down the starch mainly into maltose and glucose, i.e. simple sugars that then ferment as they turn into the essential nourishment required by yeasts. Fermentation generates gases that cause the dough to rise. These gases, together with the slight caramelization of the simple sugars and amino acids (Maillard reaction), improve the colour of the bread crust, the fragrance and taste of the bread, as well as the crumbliness of the crust. The proteases also soften the gluten network, making it more stretchy and digestible: the crumb stays soft and elastic with a uniform, well developed cellular structure. Products stay crumbly and fresh for longer.
In Italy, diastatic power is measured in ” Pollack” which indicate the sugar-conversion power of 10 mg of malt in 1 kg of flour, for a predetermined amount of time and at a set temperature, referred to the dry matter. 15,000 Pollack units mean that 10 mg of malt produce 15,000 mg of sugars. Indirectly, this indicates the ability of alpha- and beta-amylases to convert starches into sugars: in other words, their diastatic power.
MALT FLOUR TYPES
Malt flour types fall into two main categories: diastatic and non-diastatic.
On the one hand, as we have seen, high diastatic power malt is used for its enzymatic activity, usually added in small percentages. It has a light colour and subtle flavour, but encourages the development of fragrance and taste indirectly during fermentation.
On the other, non-diastatic malts and toasted malts have most effect on the colour and aroma of the finished product. They are entirely natural colours and flavourings. These malts have no enzymatic activity and do not affect fermentation. Toasting boosts both the colour and flavour intensity, with sweeter, more subtle aromas associated with golden, caramel colours at one end of the spectrum and, at the other, stronger, more intense colours and aromas, with shades ranging from hazelnut and dark brown through to a coffee colour.