Malting Grain to Boost Your Sourdough

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Brewers, whiskey distillers, and bakers also use the process of malting grain for the boost of color and flavor.
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“The Sourdough School” is an informative compilation of the author’s teachings from her renowned Sourdough School. Inside readers will discover the secrets of the uniquely healthy bread and master the delectable crust and tangy taste of a sourdough loaf in their own kitchen.

InThe Sourdough School: The Ground-Breaking Guide to Making Gut-Friendly Breadby Vanessa Kimble, readers will learn to master the art of sourdough from the expert herself. Kimble uses the teachings from her renowned Sourdough School in a brilliant compilation of easy-to-follow instructions and stunning photography. Readers of all experience levels can try their hand at the timeless craft of artisan baking with this indispensable guide. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4,”Ingredients.”

At the School, we add a tiny amount of malt powder when using white roller-milled flour as the main flour in the loaf (10 grams per kilogram of flour), but it is worth checking your flour as some already contain malt. The malt contributes to the goldenness of the crust, and the food available to the microbes boosts your sourdough, giving a good rise and golden color.

Malting grain is the slow, gentle process of sprouting, drying (or roasting), then milling grain. Apart from the color and flavor this process adds, malting is used by brewers, whiskey distillers, and bakers to harness the ability of naturally occurring enzymes to convert starches into simple sugars. There are two types of malt, based on the presence or lack of enzymes they contain:

  • Diastatic malt has enzymes that are still active. The enzyme’s job is to convert starch into sugar, so by adding diastatic malt to dough, you are further increasing the sugars made available to the microbes.
  • Non-diastatic malt, which has been heated to a higher temperature to bring out flavors, stops the enzymatic reaction.

You don’t have to make your own malt. You can buy it easily from a good supplier of baking ingredients and equipment — or find a local brewer. They will have dozens of different flavors, including malted oats and chocolate malt. We generally use local barley to make the malt we use at the School.

A step-by-step guide to homemade malt

Malt deteriorates over time, so I tend to make it three or four times a year to keep it fresh. Store in a clean, airtight jar for up to six months. You can make malt from various grains, including wheat, spelt, rye, and barley. The process takes 6-7 days.

  1. First sprout 200 grams of grains (you tend to get just a bit less than the amount you started with, so 200 grams of grain gives you about 175 grams of malt).
  2. Next you need to dry or roast the grains (See below for drying/roasting instructions).
  3. Mill or grind the grains into a flour using a mill, or mortar and pestle.
  4. Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge. Malt is better slightly aged, and the more you roast the grains the longer you need to age them — sometimes I leave the very dark ones for up to two months before using.

Drying/Roasting your grains

  • Drying can take up to 24 hours or even longer, depending on the size of the grain. I leave mine in the oven at just below 104 degrees Fahrenheit (any hotter than this and the enzymes will not survive) until they are completely dry — taste one to check; if it is hard and crunchy it is dry. Mill these to set diastatic malt.
  • Roasting the sprouted grains intensifies the flavors. As the starches and proteins brown (the Maillard reaction), various flavor and color compounds are produced. This kills the enzymes (so it’s just flavored food). See below for temperatures and timings.
Oven temperature Dry/Wet Time Flavor
285 F Dry 1 hr Light, nutty
350 F Dry 15 min. Light, nutty
350 F Dry 30 min. Toasty, nutty
350 F Wet 1 hr Light, sweet, toasty
350 F Wet 1-1/2 hrs Toasted malty, slightly sweet
350 F Wet 2 hrs Strong roast

More from The Sourdough School:

Excerpted fromThe Sourdough School, by Vanessa Kimble © 2018. Published by Kyle Books, and photographs © Nassima Rothacker. No images may be used, in print or electronically, without consent from the publisher.