The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What to do if recipe does not indicate whether to use diastatic/ non-diastatic malt powder (or syrup)?

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novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

What to do if recipe does not indicate whether to use diastatic/ non-diastatic malt powder (or syrup)?

Hi! I am new here. I am a committed, if bumbling fledgling, bread-baker and lover. I have been trying to expand my horizons (very slowly), and have decided to try one of Rose Levy Beranbaum's breads which calls for malt powder. I have never used the stuff before. I either avoid recipes which have it listed, or use a substitution if given. Being someone who finds joy in following recipes precisely until I'm comfortable (then I do whatever I feel like to them) I finally ordered myself diastatic malt powder. When I went back to look at the recipe I want try, though,  it didn't indicate which I am supposed to use (diastatic or non-diastatic). Could someone help me with this? I would very appreciative.

 

Thank you!

Bethany

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

non-diastatic is typically only added as a sweetener. If you google the two, diastatic malt breaks down the starch in dough to yield sugars on which the yeast can feed. Has to do w/ grain enzymes etc.

novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

Thank you GermanFoodie,

I did understand, more or less, what the difference was between the two (though what breaking down the sugars to feed on them means, exactly, for the dough I'm not sure). But I appreicate the fact that you say to use diastatic. Just out of curiosity, that is the point of the non-diastatic, then, if diastatic is better? (Not that I'm not happy about it, that's what I've got, after all...)  

Chuck's picture
Chuck

that is the point of the non-diastatic, then, if diastatic is better?

"Better" depends on what your goal is; neither one is clearly superior to the other in all situations. 

  • If you want to add color and/or flavor and/or sweetness, or darken the crust, without changing the way the dough behaves, then non-diastatic malt is the way to go.
  • If you want to give the yeasties more to eat by changing the way your dough ferments (and also do the color and/or flavor and/or sweetness and crust things), then diastatic malt is the way to go. (Diastatic malt is also sometimes used to "adjust" the falling number of misbehaving flours, but that only ever happens to some bakeries and/or with some "organic" flours.)

Often a really good place to look is either the "ingredients" chapter or the "glossary" of the cookbook the recipe came from. Recipe books often explain their own idiosyncratic use of terms in considerable detail.

At the risk of seeming to not fully agree with GermanFoodie, IMHO it's easier to figure out which a recipe means by looking at the full recipe (and also a picture of the desired result if possible). Also, you can sometimes tell what's meant by the quantity and where it goes: if it's an ingredient in the dough and the quantity is less than 1 teaspoon per loaf, it's likely diastatic malt. Lastly, the name may be a giveaway: the term "malt" isn't always clear, but the term "barley flour" almost certainly means diastatic malt.

 

(If you want to keep only one on hand, diastatic malt is better because diastatic can easily be "denatured" to non-diastatic, but not vice-versa. To turn diastatic malt into non-diastatic malt, just heat it. [I think -but am not sure- heat it to at least the boiling point of water and hold it there for at least five minutes. If you're dealing with powder, I think it will work to just spread it out on a cookie sheet and slide it into a medium oven.])

novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

Thank you, Chuck,

Your reply was extremely helpful. By referring again to my recipe (it's a pumpernickel loaf that I am building), I saw that one Tablespoon is called for, suggesting that the author is actually asking for non-diastatic. She does not, as far as I can tell, actually say anywhere in her book which she intended for this recipe (though she does explain the differences between the two).

 Because of the amount of the ingredient required, and because there is already two other sources of sugar (sugar and molasses), I hypothesize that she meant non-diastatic....now I have to decide whether I'm brave enough to try changing the malt powder I have or whether to order non-diastatic and wait a little more time to make my bread. I hate waiting. Thank you so much!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Yep, many pumpernickel recipes are "colored" so they appear darker. (Hopefully I can avoid the controversy over whether or not this common practice is really "authentic":-) One of the common ways to darken the color of breads such as pumpernickel is with non-diastatic malt.

(For dark colors, also search "crystal malt" here on TFL and/or visit your local home brewing supply.)

novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

I'm so new at this I didn't know there was a point of contention on the coloring of pumpernickel, though, I am not all that surprised. I've only recently been informed that, apparently, even a few blisters on a French Bread baguette puts its authenticity in jepordy  (I let the shaped dough rise in the 'fridge overnight, hence the blisters--and I personally like the look), so I'm not shocked that there are disputes about the additives incorporated to obtain that near-black color of pumpernickel that I love.  I also didn't know that non-diastatic malt was used specifically for that purpose. Very interesting. There isn't any sort of health food store within an easy driving range for me, unfortunately, so any kind of remotely uncommon ingredient has to be Internet obtained. Oh, well. I love all the ins and outs of this hobby enough so that it more then makes up for scrounging for ingredients....

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Bethany,

This formula is calling for non-diastatic malt.   You cannot successfully substitute with diastatic malt.

As the other posters have alluded to, diastatic malt is added to balance the amylase enzymes which control the rate at which starch breaks down to sugar to become available to yeast.   An excess of this enzymatic content will cause an over-rapid fermentation, resulting in disasters at the oven stage.   So the level of diastatic malt added is critical, a small excess will be fatal.

Theoretically, millers generally adjust the amylase content in the flour using fungal amylase, so there should be no need to be using diastatic malt anyway.

Best wishes

Andy

novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

Hi Andy!

Thank you for your response. I am now operating under a far clearer understanding of what I am about with these malt powders. So I will grit my teeth and buy non-diastatic powder. I really appreicate the explanation on how diastatic malt functions within the bread. I understood there was a difference but I now understand precisely what that is. Thank you! I can be a little addled at times (unfortunate when one is only 26). Now, just to clarify, you are saying that I would only use diastatic malt in the case of a flour which has not already been modified by the miller producing it, correct?  

 

Many thanks,

Bethany

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Bethany,

You've got the concept.

Unfortunately there is no way of knowing for sure whether or not the flour has been "re-balanced" by the miller.

If you have bought an industrially-produced common type of flour, then there is a very good chance the amylase content will have been adjusted.   I am UK-based, and the millers over here use fungal-based amylase enzymes to produce a flour with a consistent "diastatic" content.

The trouble is that our labelling regulations have a convenient loophole for food manufacturers, as enzymes are classed as "processing aids", and, as such, food manufacturers do not have to declare these.   Apparently, because they are theoretically all used up in the fermenting process, they do not need to be included in the label "contents".....draw your own conclusion on that.

However, the postings from many US-based posters here on TFL indicate belief that flour is treated with diastatic barley malt powder in the US.   Maybe that is so, I am not in a position to know for sure.   But, if that were the case in the UK, then the malted barley would have to be declared!   To be sure, our food manufacturers are obsessed by "clean label" concepts.   If only they knew the true meaning of these words in combination!!!

Sorry, that's a long-winded and political response to a simple and straight-forward question.   Food manufacturing is rarely straight-forward, or, simple!   Where are you based?

Best wishes

Andy

novembergypsy's picture
novembergypsy

No worries, Andy, one of my other hobbies includes reading. I vastly prefer a through response anyway. :)

I know that my bags of flour (I have just checked) all report using DB Malt. I just wasn't aware that if a flour already has some in it, it is unnessary (and even undesirable?) to add more. I have been baking bread off and on since a child, but hadn't realized there was such a "techinical" side to it until recently. However, I'm enjoying myself immensely. I've been told I'm like a mad sciencist with my doughs ;). I realize that some food manufactors seem bound and determined to keep as much information as possible hidden from the consumer (whether through loopholes or terms that use every letter in the alphabet at least twice), for reasons that I don't presume to eniterely understand. It is a perplexing and rather unsettling issue. Anyway, back on course...

So your general point is that, if the flour says it already has DB malt, then, if the recipe calls for malt powder, one should use non-diastatic. I am getting some organic course rye flour in the next couple days, so I'll have to check if that has DB in it, right?

Again, I really appriecate the chance to pick your brain!

Have a great day,

Bethany (I'm from USA)