Malt Syrup, Malt Extract, Maltose


I started to research the subject of malt syrup, malt extract and maltose few months back because it appears in bagel recipes and have even seen it in a pizza dough recipe.  I couldn’t understand what its function was.  As I’m now in the middle of posting about bagels part I and part II, it seems the right time to write a post on it.

This information I’ve collected is mainly from How Baking Works and from Harold McGee Food & Cooking.

Making Malt Syrup

Malt syrup is germinated grain that has been fermented and can be made from any grain.  It will usually have barley in it as well as other grains or if it’s malt extract it’s made only from barley and will have a much stronger malt aroma.  Along with honey it’s an ancient world sweetener because households could use the grains they already grew for their food to make this syrup.

The process of making is in 3 stages.  The first stage it’s germinated and then dried.  The second stage it’s mixed with water to produce a slurry.  In the third stage this slurry is extracted then more water added and boiled down until it becomes a concentrated syrup.  Because it is less sweet than other syrups, in Asia it’s applied to provide colour and gloss to savoury foods such as painted on Peking duck skin.

Why Is Maltose Special

Maltose is a sugar, just like fructose is a sugar (from fruit), sucrose (our table sugar from sugarcane), glucose (from starch) and lactose (from milk).  From my understanding although maltose is usually extracted from barley, maltose also exists in other plants that contain glucose.  These sugars are used in baking and are broken down into 2 categories, Monosaccharides and Disaccharides.

Monosaccharides is made up of 1 sugar unit (that’s why it’s Mono) and they’re simple sugars.  Example of these simple sugars are glucose and fructose.  Disaccharide consist of 2 sugars units bonded together.  Malt is one example of this, it consists of 2 glucose molecules.  To put simply, maltose sugar is a more complex sugar than say fruit sugar.

Maltose (two glucose molecules) and glucose (extracted from starch) has more than one effect in baking apart from sweetening goods; it browns, moistens and tenderises. Furthermore, maltose like muscovado sugar, honey, maple, rice syrup, dark syrup molasses and dark corn syrup also delivers flavour to baked goods as well as sweetness.

Why Too Much Sugar is Bad for Baking

Sugars interfere with gluten formation, protein coagulation, and starch gelatinization.  For us bread bakers we have come across warnings that all sorts of things interfere with gluten development like milk and fat but now I know so does sugar.  And sugar doesn’t just mess up the gluten in breadmaking it interferes with any baked goods because it has a good ability to attract water.

Baked goods that require egg and starch also need water to help its structure and too much sugar can not only get in the way of the structure of a cake but also interact with the structure itself.  Sugar increases the temperature at which proteins coagulate and starches gelatinizes, which delays structure formation.

The more sugar added the more delayed the structure formation and the more tender the baked goods.  If too much sugar is added too little structure forms and a cake may fail to rise or may rise but then collapse when out of the oven.

How Sweet Is Sugar

All sugars are sweet but some more than others, fructose is sweeter than others.

  • Fructose 120%
  • sucrose 100%
  • glucose 70%
  • maltose 45%
  • Lactose 40%
  • Corn syrup (made from glucose/maltose) 30-50%
  • Corn syrup (made from fructose/maltose) 80-90%

Bread and Maltose

Above I mentioned how maltose  has a slowing effect, adds flavour, softens, moistens and browns in baking goods generally but in bread it also does something else.  Maltose through yeast fermentation provides carbon dioxide gas for leavening dough.  But that’s the same affect as fructose and glucose I hear you say?  Yes it is, but the difference is maltose does it more slowly, and for adding flavour to doughs slow is a good thing.  

Malt extract is used in bread for yeast growth and moisture retention.  Finally!  After all this time I found the answer to:  Why Use Malt Extract in Bagels/Pizza Dough?  My mind is at peace now.