For a growing number of consumers, the “best” ingredients for the baked foods they buy at the store are the same ones they could find in grandma’s cupboard when they were kids. Judie Giebel, technical services representative for Briess Malt & Ingredients, describes one of these basic-value ingredients: Malt. Ms. Giebel is also an AIB Certified Baker.

Baking & Snack: Which types of baked foods are best for using honey and/or malt? Why these?

Judie Giebel: Bread bakers have been using malt in the forms of malted barley flour and malted barley extract (syrup) for centuries, primarily in yeast-raised doughs. These days, as consumers seek new food experiences, bakers are discovering malt's other contributions to both yeast-raised and chemically leavened baked goods. Malt is beneficial to both types because it comes in two forms, diastatic and nondiastatic.

Diastatic malt is made from whole-grain barley malt that has been dried gently at low heat to keep all of the enzymes alive. Because it has active enzymes, diastatic malt can break down starches and create finer and softer texture in baked goods. This helps to keep the baked goods moister, in return extending the shelf life. In yeast-raised recipes, diastatic malt also replaces sugar to feed yeast and brown crusts.

Nondiastatic malt extract is malted barley that has been naturally converted to a sweetener using its own enzymes to convert the starches to sugars. This product has no active enzymes and will not break down the dough matrix. Malted barley extract provides nutrients for the yeast, additional flavor and the sugar needed to give yeast its starting boost.

Several popular baked goods will benefit from diastatic malted barley flour. In artisan breads, it will function as a yeast enhancer and browning agent. In multigrain breads, it will mask some of the grainy flavor notes, brown the crust, soften the dough and aid fermentation.

Nondiastatic malted barley extract adds flavor and gives muffins a softer, more moist texture. In bagels, it adds flavor and color when added to the dough and develops a chewy exterior when boiled in a malt extract wash. Many pizza crust manufacturers are also adding either style of malt to crusts, especially for browning and flavor.

When a formulator wants to switch from another sweetener to honey or malt, what guidelines will help with the change?

Malted barley extract (syrup) replaces sugar at a ratio of 3:4. So, 12 oz malted barley extract replaces 16 oz sugar. Liquids must be reduced at a ratio of 1:4.

What trends have you seen in wholesale bakery use of these two ingredients? Why is this happening? How do you see these product trends playing out in the next few years?

Manufacturers targeting the health-and-wellness platform are using malt to help achieve a clean label in a number of way. Malt is all-natural, non-GMO, healthy and nutritious. In addition to the label claims in delivers, it can also help remove high-fructose corn syrup from a label.

I think these trends will continue, and the simple cooking trend will accelerate. Foodies want old fashioned baked goods but don't always have the time to do it. Bringing back grandma's recipes with a new flare, I believe, will be the next trend.