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Industrially produced “baking malt” – a test

The additive in question is named ‘Backmalz’ (‘Baking Malt’) and is available through hobby bakers’ shops or, as it was my source, ebay. Although my ideas of baking bread do not encompass using additives except fresh (bio-) yeast, and this especially goes for powdered substances coming in obscure plastic bags, the vast majority of German bakers use them for their roll production and breads. Take an arbitrary site of a German bakery and look for “Brötchenbackmittel” or “Backmittel”.

Now this additive is declared as being free from the notorious chemically produced substances like diacetyl tartrate esters (DAWE, E 472e in German nomenclature) and, as fas the product description is concerned, is nothing more than diastatic malt. I have no idea what that is, but diastatic power is said to be the grain’s ability to transform the starch in the wet flour into sugars (wikipedia-laziness strikes again), which is consequently consumed by the yeast. This process hapens without diastatic malt, but it takes longer (for example by retarding the dough for up to 48 hours in the fridge effectively yielding a dough of very high quality).

Some Advantages commonly linked to baking improvers:

  • Better volume (higher volume)
  • Shorter relaxation times of the dough, yet good stability
  • Shorter fermentation times of the dough (about 30 minutes at 2% of fresh yeast to flour weight for the first rising and 60 minutes of final rest)
  • Better crust color (a fuller brown)
  • Better crust texture (brittle and crisp)
  • Increased extensibility of the wet gluten (no bread faults such as curved bottom or irregularly burst crust or ‘blown top’.)

I made five rolls with some seeds sprinkled on them (sunflower seeds and linseeds), also using a biga, since that kind of preferment seems to give the biggest volume. Added 2% of the ‘Backmalz’ to the dough (in relation to total flour weight). 2% yeast, 2% salt. Hydration: 66%. Baked at 240°C falling to 200°C for 25 minutes. Raw weight of each roll was 90g, baked weight eventually 75g.


  • Dough had a hydration of 66% but felt more like 70
  • Dough fermented quicker
  • Dough felt smoother, almost silky
  • Oven spring was very good to excellent, locally excessive oven spring lead to the formation of cavities
  • Mouth feeling, crumb: moist, yet floury, a little pasty on the palate
  • Mouth feeling, crust: Crust had developed rather quickly and was consequently thick. Quite hard.
  • Flavor, crumb: Sweet but not strongly fermented, reduced aftertaste
  • Flavor, crust: Slightly bitter with an unpleasant aftertaste.
  • Overall flavor: Acceptable

“Acceptable flavor” for whom and when? Can’t say that it was devastating but it certainly had a peculiar quality to it, which I cannot pin down. Call it Umami. Or lack of Umami rather.

I see little reason to use it as a home baker, because I can adjust the handling of the dough as desired. I do not need dough that can withstand the vigors of machine-arms mauling it at high speed, nor do I want to speed up my production process at the cost of flavor. I am irritated by the bitter aftertaste of the crust, where it was a tad darker, that still is in my mouth after 2 hours. Even though I’ve used an indirect dough by adding a starter, the quality of the finished product suffered. Perhaps there is more than diastatic malt in this “baking malt”…


Written by theinversecook

30 January 2010 at 23:33

11 Responses

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  1. I usually make my own malt powder and it’s pretty easy. (sprout, dry, grind) Have you ever tried that? I like how it adds colour to the crust.


    31 January 2010 at 00:43

    • Yes, I find that it’s the best malt to use. Very good flavor.


      31 January 2010 at 01:31

  2. Nils, thank you so mcho for information. I have been looking for diastic and non-diastic (I do not know if I write correctly the name in English) for a long time, because it is important for the Russian tradition of making bread. Unfortunately, I do not understand German, so for me it is more difficult to deal with e-Bay information. I read in English, French, Italian and Spanish. Do you think I can find the same product in, say, French-speaking E-Bay?
    My question may sound strange, but I never bougth anything there and I do not know how it works.
    Thank you in advance,



    31 January 2010 at 05:53

    • Hi eliabel,
      I’m a little confused if this powder consists only of malt. Without chemical additives…yes, but what is defined as chemicl additive?

      True diastaic malt is what you want, if I understand it correctly, so I would look for that. What kind of bread are you baking?



      31 January 2010 at 15:47

  3. I bake Russian traditional bread, which is delicious and quite particular. Russian panification uses some unusual techniques, like pouring boiling water on 1/3 of the flour total amount and keeping this mixture in a warm place for some hours (usually adding diastic or not diastic malt to it – it depends on recipe). This procedure allows transforming wheat’s starch, liberating natural sweetness of the wheat and giving better colour and longer shelf life to the breads, baked in this way. I do not usually make photos of my bread neither I really maintain my journal, but you can see very nice examples of Russian Bread here:
    and here: both of these magnificent bakers know English much better than me.
    I would like to thank you, Nils, for your articles. I learn a lot, reading your journal. I write seldom, but I am a regular silent reader.


    2 February 2010 at 02:26

    • Hi eliabel,

      did you mean to link to your journal in the first link, because you gave the same link twice. Would love to see it too.

      The Russian malt bread you mention is new to me. (Obiously) I don’t seem to get the difference between diastatic and non-diastatic malt. So I will need to get diastatic malt from another source perhaps and watch the changes.


      3 February 2010 at 19:52

  4. this is the source of the baking malt diastatic flour (diax) that I have been trying. There is quite a lot of information on their site, but as you say maybe there are no chemical additives but I think something happens in the processing which is different to what happens when you malt barley at home? But it is interesting to try it out. Is it OK to refer to Patrick’s site as he is the only person I know of who sells malt in small quantities to try here in England? I find the malt products give a very specific taste to the breads and I am not sure that it is always what I want, a bit like adding msg to food, as it were, sort of standardises the taste. I do like the gentle taste of a little bit of the spraymalt in white bread, a nice light sweetness to the crust by the way. But that’s not a diastatic malt.


    2 February 2010 at 12:14

    • Thanks. I’m afraid I can’t add anything more substantial. So there is natural malt, i.e. the one made in Dan Lepard’s Handmade Loaf, which is a simplified home-version of the skillful work of the maltster and then we have the lovely German (and euphemistic) “Backmalz”. In Germany just like most countries, I believe, there is no purity law for bread, more than 100 additives are allowed. Plus, the word “artisan” is not known here. Every baker calls himself “Handwerksbäcker” or “Qualitätsbäcker”, which is similar to “artisan baker”.


      3 February 2010 at 19:46

  5. Thank you so much for information. In Russian tradition they usually employ a special technology of using the malt, not just adding it to the dough. And the quality of malt matters as well. There are some of them with more and with less taste.

    I tried to make it at home. It is not difficult, but for me it was very difficult to ground it properly – it is quite hard. So I refused to repeat the experience.


    3 February 2010 at 03:24

  6. Sorry, Nils, that’s the second link:



    5 February 2010 at 03:00

    • Thanks!



      5 February 2010 at 03:24

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