Malted barley did something mysterious when brewers combined it with hot water: The husks of the germinated dried grains spontaneously separated from the starch, and the mixture, now called mash, became sweet. The agent prompting these changes, termed diastase from the Greek word for “separating,” was the first enzyme to be discovered.

Today, the class of enzymes termed diastase is better known as amylase.

“Diastatic malt is barley or wheat that has been processed in such a way that the grain germinates. This develops and preserves the natural cereal enzymes,” said Judie Giebel, technical services representative, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., Chilton, WI. “Diastatic malt is used as a supplement in bakery flours to standardize the amylase activity, specifically alpha-amylase, known as the liquefying enzyme. It acts to break down starches and produce dextrins.”

Malt not only qualifies as a whole-grain ingredient, but it also provides labeling benefits. Joe Hickenbottom, vice-president, sales and marketing, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NJ, observed, “Baked foods made with natural diastatic malts do not require labeling of the enzymes. Malt can help formulators eliminate some additives from the label.”

Dry malts blend malted barley flour with dextrose and wheat flour to standardize their performance at either 20°L or 60°L. (Malt strength is measured in degrees Lintner, and the higher the number, the higher the amylase activity.) “Malted barley and malt extracts can be used on their own,” Mr. Hickenbottom said, “but the formulator must take into account that these materials can rate as high as 200°L.”

Read More on the Subject:
Enzymes: Clean Sweep
Fighting Acrylamides
In Times to Come