The Fresh Loaf

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Does sourdough bread need diastatic barley malt?

qazwart's picture

Does sourdough bread need diastatic barley malt?

I make a sourdough rye that's about 80% to 90% rye flour. I add gluten which helps lighten it up, and just bought some diastatic barley malt because I know that the whole rye flour I use doesn't have it.

The purpose of the diastatic barley malt is to break down the starch in the flour to help the yeast feed. It's automatically added to all purpose flour and bread flour in the U.S. However, the lactic bacteria in sourdough also breaks down the starch into sugars for the yeast.

So, do you need to add diastatic barley malt to sourdough bread?



HansB's picture

No you do not.

DanAyo's picture

That’s a good question. I wouldn’t think it needs it. It may make the dough worse. (Others may know) Maybe a better question is will it benefit from it?

I’m experimenting with rye starters and I’m wondering if the starter would benefit form it. And if so, at what percent of flour.

I know from experience that too much diastatic malt will make the crumb very gummy.

qazwart's picture

I made pumpernickel yesterday, and I tried adding a couple of teaspoons of diastatic barley malt, and the results weren't good. The bread is okay, but the crumb is a bit gummy. It's definitely not one of my better loaves. I won't use it again in my sourdough rye or pumpernickel. Lesson learned.

I make a San Francisco sourdough and the flour I use (King Arthur's Bread Flour) does contain diastatic barley malt.  However, in the rye, the barley malt is suppose to be there to break down the starch in the flour to make it more digestible for the yeast, and it seems to me that the lactic acid bacteria does that job already.

The thing I found that makes a big difference is wheat gluten. I add about two tablespoons to my rye and pumpernickel. It definitely makes the rye much lighter. Before I started adding it, my rye bread would be about 20% rye flour. Any more than that would make a dense brick. Once I started adding wheat gluten, my rye bread is a lot lighter, and I've increased the amount of rye I use. With more rye, my bread is richer and nuttier. The texture is chewier and denser. In my pumpernickel, the rye, molasses, cocoa, and sourdough combine into a wonderful flavor that's marvelous with cultured butter.

The Starter

I'm not that sophisticated. I use the same starter for all of my sourdough: White, rye, and pumpernickel. On this board,  I've seen people with specific starter for particular types of bread. That's way too complex for me. Besides, my wife already complains about that yucky stuff sitting in her fridge. I'd hate to think what she would do if I had four or five containers of starter there. Good thing she's a fan of my sourdough, or it'd have gone in the garbage long ago.

I started my starter with whole rye flour because it's suppose to have the better natural culture than wheat flour. I followed the instructions at epicurious. However, I feed my starter with cheap all purpose flour, and after four or so months, it's almost 100% all purpose flour. The all purpose flour does contain diastatic barley malt.

Compared to a lot of people here, I'm sloppy. I don't do much in the way of measurement. I remove around 1/2 of the starter (either use it or dump it), add a cup of flour and enough water to be a fairly wet sticky dough. It's wet enough, I can stir it, but still thick enough that it'll rise. I can't say how much water I add or whether it's at the right temperature.

However, when I make rye or pumpernickel, I use way more rye that most people do. My bread is about 80% rye flour -- including the all purpose starter.

I'll try the diastatic barley malt when I make whole wheat. That's not sourdough, and the whole wheat flour I use doesn't contain diastatic barley malt. My wholewheat is fairly light and has a good texture, but it's not as light and fluffy as my white, so maybe the diastatic barley malt might help there.


AndyPanda's picture

I use a pinch (about 1/8 tsp) of diastic malt in my 50% whole wheat sourdough (350g total flour).  I've been adding it before the autolyse.  I get a nice texture, plenty of oven spring and the crumb is not at all gummy .  

qazwart's picture

You're using 50% whole wheat, it's likely that the rest of the flour already has barley malt in it. My rye and pumpernickel is almost all rye flour, so there's almost no barley malt in the flour itself. Assuming I should use 1/2 teaspoon per 350 grams of flour. I used around 1500 grams of flour which ends up being around 2 tsp of barley malt. It's about what I used, but the texture ended up  being a bit gummy.

My question is whether sourdough even benefits from diastatic barley malt since lactobacillus found in the starter already breaks down the starch in the flour for the yeast. Adding barley malt might simply be too much.

My white sourdough bread is made with King Arthur's Bread Flour and does fine -- even though the flour contains barley malt. Maybe 2 tsp is too much, or maybe rye is different than wheat.

Adding barley malt should have at least helped it rise a bit faster, but it still took its merry ol' time. Maybe it's my sourdough, but my non-sourdough bread will double in size in less than an hour, and my sourdough takes about 3 to 4 hours for the same results.

Next time I make whole wheat, I'll try the diastatic barley malt since the whole wheat flour I use doesn't contain it and see if it makes a difference.

jimbtv's picture

I suggest that you do some research on "falling numbers" as it pertains to wheat and flour. This will help you understand the purpose of diastatic malt in bread. And yes, a tiny bit goes a very long way. Two teaspoons will likely ruin a loaf of bread.

qazwart's picture

I understand what diastatic barley malt does which is why I asked whether sourdough needs diastatic barley malt. The enzymes in the barley malt break down the starch in the flour for the yeast to feed. However, the bacteria in sourdough does the same thing.

I was making four loaves of pumpernickel using around 1500 grams of flour. Two teaspoons of barley malt should have been fine for that amount of flour.

To me, it looks like adding the barley malt really didn't do anything for my bread except made it a bit gummy. It should have at least speeded up the rising time since more food is available for the yeast to feed. However, the dough still took its merry ol' time to rise.

I'm leaning away from using barley malt in sourdough -- although my white sourdough made with King Arthur's Bread Flour does contain barley malt and comes out just fine.

Orysia's picture

I experimented with adding half a teaspoon of Barley Malt Flour and it changed the bread quite a bit.  First, the outside was less crusty and the inside was more moist and spongy.  What I like about this sourdough loaf is that it stays moist for several days.  Usually, my family only likes the sourdough for toast the day after it is baked.  With the barley malt flour, it can be used for sandwiches much longer.  I have not found this information on the web and it has made a real difference to my bread baking.  Bottom line, the delicious crunch of the crust and light inside it preferable if you plan to eat the whole bread the first day but the longevity and more of the sandwich bread consistency is nice for a change.  

ryeL's picture

i also want to extend this question regarding the timing of adding diastatic malt? do you add it in levain, in flour for the bread, with the salt or just sprinkle it on the loaf before final proofing?

jimmy's picture

 Add into main mix (not into levain) so it can break down starches to feed the yeast during an autolyze and the entire fermentation after levain is added.

jimmy's picture

I am sure that the diastatic added to many commercial AP flours is extremely

minimal. Adding up to .5% by weight was incredibly useful in improving the browning and decreasing both kneading and total proving/leavening time. USE IT !