Most baked items made with sugar can benefit from substituting some form of malt, liquid or dry, by direct replacement on a solids basis, according to J.W. Hickenbottom, vice-president of sales, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NY. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, he explains why malt — and honey — are such good fits for baked foods.

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

J.W. Hickenbottom: Whole grain baked foods are among the many products that benefit from using either of the natural sweeteners honey or malt. These natural sweeteners mellow the bitter note of the whole grains in addition to providing fermentable carbohydrates such as fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose. When used in whole grain baked goods such as breads, rolls, bagels and crackers at levels ranging from 1 to 3% based on flour weight, they provide the finished products with enhanced flavor, color and sweetness in addition to increased shelf life and stability. In short, baked goods benefit greatly from their use versus other sweeteners.

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

To incorporate either honey or malt in baked goods vs. other sweeteners such as sucrose, HFCS or other corn sweeteners, the baker must consider relative solids, sweetness and, of course, cost. In today’s market, sucrose and corn sweeteners are priced less than either honey or malt. This variance is counteracted by being able to use less honey and malt to achieve the desired flavor and color yet benefit from enhanced finished products. This difference can be as much as 15% less in both cases.

While color and flavor will be enhanced in the baked item, these attributes are usually for the better. Malts are not as sweet as sugar, but the final yeast-raised products have good sweetness due to the yeast having “used up” more of the sugar than the malt during fermentation since sugar is the first to be used and the residual malt is still present. Of course, a blend of malt and sugar can be used which would reduce the amount of sugar.

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?

Comparing honey to malt, both are marketed at about 80% solids; both contribute minerals and low-molecular-weight nitrogenous compounds especially useful as yeast nutrients; both have similar calories (300 Cal per 100 g), viscosities and, except for honey being sweeter, are very similar when used in baked goods.

Honey availability and price currently deter bakers from using more of it even though its attributes are considerable. Consumers have good recognition and acceptance of products using honey. Malt is not as recognizable by the consumer, but many bakers of whole grain items know that malt produces products with added eye appeal and salability.

Honey and malt will continue to be the “bakers choice” of sweeteners in many items for years to come.