What Is a Diastatic Malt Powder Used for?

Diastatic malt powder has become a point of fascination for bakers at home and for businesses alike. However, it has actually been around for generations, and thousands upon thousands of years if you think about it. So, what is a diastatic malt powder used for?

What Is Diastatic Malt Powder?

Diastatic malt powder is as old as beer itself, perhaps older, depending on your perspective.

To make it, all you have to do is germinate barley grain, which means to soak it in water long enough for it to sprout a little seedling. Then, you remove the grain from the water, dry it, toast it, and then grind it to a fine powder.

This process preserves the active ingredient that converts the starches into sugars, which feed yeast.

Historically, malted barley has been used to make beer. The grains are germinated, dried, toasted, and ground to a coarse consistency. Then, the grains will be boiled in fresh or filtered water, steeped long enough for all those sugars to release into the water, and then yeast is attracted to the water, now called wort, and begins the fermentation process.

The only difference between this malted barley and diastatic malt powder is the grind.

Is Diastatic Malt Powder Healthy?

Diastatic malt powder is just as healthy as barley grain, which is to say it is packed with vitamins and minerals essential to human health.

In most malted barley products, you will find vitamins B, C, D, E and of course protein. But the levels of nutrients will depend on how much of the product you use, of course. And most people do not use much diastatic malt powder.

What Is Diastatic Malt Used For?

The reason you don’t see diastatic malt powder used in great quantities is that a little goes a long way. Honestly, just a pinch will do.

This is because it is used primarily as a baking ingredient, to increase the effectiveness of yeast and to add color, flavor, and aroma to baked goods.

A “secret” ingredient handed down through generations, particularly in regions of Europe like Germany (especially Bavaria), bakers will add a bit of diastatic malt powder to their breads and pastries to promote a solid rise and a brown crust. The active enzymes that come alive when barley is germinated, just like in beer, feed the yeast in bread and help them digest the sugars more efficiently, which allows them to then produce alcohol and carbon dioxide more effectively.

This secret ingredient will also add a nutty flavor to your breads and pastries.

The differences between bread and beer, as you can see, are not many.

In general, bakers will add ½ teaspoon to 2 or 3 cups of flour. Rarely will you use more than a single teaspoon in an average baked good.

What Happens if You Use too much Diastatic Malt Powder?

Why so little? Well, too much diastatic malt powder can result in wet, sticky dough that is hard to work with. After all, when you force too much sugar on your yeast, the yeast can get overwhelmed and release water into your dough, which is what leaves you with a difficult consistency.

Even if you manage to make the dough work for you, you will likely end up with a red, rubbery crust and a weak dough.

So, take great caution with how much diastatic malt powder you include in your recipes.

What Is Non-Diastatic Malt Powder and What Is It used for?

Now, if you have flour that already has diastatic malt powder, or you’re working with a yeast you love and you don’t want to mess with a good thing, you can also use non-diastatic malt powder, which simply has the enzymes deactivated through high heat.

During the toasting process for diastatic malt powder, the heat is turned up so high that the active ingredient is killed and will not react with your yeast.

But this powder is still used for color, flavor, and a bit of sweetness.

In fact, non-diastatic malt powder is used in a beverage many Americans grew up drinking called malt powder or malted milk, which is non-diastatic malt powder, wheat flour, and whole milk powder. Add water, and you have a delicious, nutritious breakfast many children in the United States grew up on — Ovaltine.

Can You Make Your Own Diastatic Malt Powder?

Now, these days, many people across the globe are reaching back through the generations in a kind of reclamation of ancient ways.

More people in the kitchen, both at home and in restaurants, are seeking to make food from scratch and use ancient practices.

One of those is making your own diastatic malt powder.

Yes, of course you can, and the process is really quite simple.

You can get fresh barley grain and sprout it by soaking it in shallow water. Wait for the little seedlings to burst from the grain and then dry out the grains.

If you want diastatic malt powder, you will only dry the grains to the point of lacking moisture, and go no further. You don’t want to deactivate the enzyme.

If, in contrast, you want non-diastatic malt powder, you can toast, roast, or kiln the grain to your liking.

The darker you toast the grain, the nuttier and sweeter the grain will get.

Once you have your grain dried or toasted to your liking, you can grind it with a fine grinder, and again, grind it to your own taste, depending on what you plan to use it for. If you plan to put it in bread, you might like a coarser grind, but if you’re planning for smoother texture, or you want to make a smoothie or breakfast beverage, you might want to grind it to a fine powder.

In terms of shelf life, your homemade malt powder, whether diastatic or not, will probably last several weeks in an airtight container. After that, it may get clumpy and start to dry out. Just keep a good eye on it. After all, it is a dried grain powder, so it should have a pretty stable shelf life.

In the end, diastatic malt powder can be used for multiple baked goods and beverages, depending on where you get your malt powder from or if you make it yourself. In general, however, it is ideal for getting a great rise and a nice crust in your bread.

And all it takes is a pinch!

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