Get Your Malt On

These baguettes were made with a small amount of diastatic malt powder. Perfectly good bread is possible without malt, but in some cases it can help your bread be just that much more lovely.

Malt contains several enzymes; the most significant to bread bakers is amylase, which breaks down the starch in flour into simple sugar. Sugar is important for two primary reasons: it is what yeast eats (so fermentation would not be possible without it) and caramelization of sugar contributes greatly to a rich crust color. Most white flours have malt added at the mill, and even when they do not, both amylase and simple sugars are present naturally in wheat flour, so you can get fine results without adding more malt to the dough at mixing time.

However, when dough has a long fermentation, the yeast consumes a lot of sugar, since it grazes pretty much constantly. This means there is less sugar left over for caramelization of the crust, so the crust color might be paler than you’d like. For doughs with preferments (such as the poolish used in these baguettes), where a portion of the flour is fermented over several hours, the addition of amylase in the form of malt can make the crust a bit nicer. You might also add some to your dough if you are baking with unmalted flour.

Malt is made from sprouted grain, usually barley. When grain sprouts (i.e., begins to germinate a new plant), production of amylase ramps up to convert the grain’s stored carbohydrate, starch, into sugars that the little plant will need to grow. Malt is available in both diastatic (enzymatically active) and non-diastatic forms. The malt we’re interested in here is diastatic malt. (Non-diastatic malt, whose enzymes have been deactivated during processing, is used as a sweetener, most notably for bagels.)

It is possible to make your own diastatic malt from grain you sprout yourself, but I haven’t tried this yet. Diastatic malt powder is available from online sources such as King Arthur Flour.

Diastatic malt powder is typically used in small amounts, between 0.1% and 0.5% of the flour weight. Too much can cause the crust to take on an undesirable red color and the texture to become gummy. Especially if you are adding malt to compensate for unmalted flour, some experimentation may be necessary to figure out the optimal amount, since different flours have different inherent amounts of enzymes and simple sugars.

For this bake, I shaped some traditional baguettes and some “dragon tails,” which are a fun variation. I didn’t take good shaping photos, though, so I’ll post the shaping instructions if I photograph more successfully next time I make them. For the traditional ones, these scoring tips might be helpful, as well as this video on how to use a flipping board. The dough also makes fine boules and batards.

Baguettes with Poolish
(adapted from SFBI)

Yield: 1050 g (three 350-gram baguettes or two larger loaves)

Time:

  • Ferment poolish: 12 – 15 hours
  • Mix: 10 minutes
  • First fermentation : 1.25 hours
  • Divide and preshape: 10 minutes
  • Bench rest: 30 minutes
  • Shape: 10 minutes
  • Final proof: 1 – 1.25 hours
  • Bake: 22 minutes

Desired dough temperature: 75F

Poolish Ingredients:

Final Dough Ingredients:

  • 425 g flour
  • 219 g water
  • 3 g (1 t.) instant yeast
  • 12.7 g (2-1/8 t.) salt
  • 3.2 g (2/3 t.) diastatic malt powder
  • All of the poolish

Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine the poolish ingredients. Cover and let ferment for 12 – 15 hours, or until the surface is creased and pebbled with bubbles.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook, combine all of the final dough ingredients except about 10% of the water. Mix on low speed to incorporate the the ingredients, adjusting the water as needed to achieve a medium dough consistency.
  3. Continue mixing to a low-medium level of gluten development. How long this takes will depend upon your mixer.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and ferment at room temperature for about an hour and 15 minutes.
  5. Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Divide into three pieces (or four, if your oven cannot accommodate baguettes 20 – 22 inches long). Preshape each piece into a cylinder, cover, and let rest for 20 – 30 minutes.
  6. Shape the dough into baguettes and place them in a lightly-floured couche.
  7. Proof, covered, for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until the indentation left by a fingertip in the dough springs back very slowly.
  8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
  9. Just before baking, score the baguettes.
  10. Once the loaves are in the oven, reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake for 7 minutes with steam, and another 10 minutes or so without steam. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for another 5 minutes, with the door ajar, to let the loaves dry for a crisp crust.
  11. Cool on a wire rack.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    those dragon tails are adorable!

    adding malt sounds like a good idea to – I like to ferment my sourdough overnight, so giving the yeasties a little extra fodder is probably an excellent idea.

  2. says

    Susan, have you ever bought it from store in our area other then online? please let me know. Really want to make this and the bagel as well.

  3. says

    Loved that you mentioned malt – I am thinking of making it from sprouted barley to use in one of Hamelman’s bread, but have not found the grain yet.

    I might have to use malt powder in its place…

    Your baguette shaping and scoring is superb, I wish one day I can “get there”….

  4. Brian says

    Hi,

    New comer to the site — started off reading the BP tutorials (thanks) and landed here from a browse.

    Three questions re above (and love the dragon’s tails as well — want to see the shaping pics).

    You’ve got salt in the recipe twice — 12.7g and 16g. Assume it is probably only one of these? If so, which one, and is the other amount supposed to belong to a different ingredient? (although can’t imagine what)

    Second, could I just simply substitute my sourdough starter (which is a liquid) for the poolish? My starter runs about 156% hydration, but I just finished plugging this into a little spreadsheet based on the BP table you had in tutorial 4, so I’ve got the adjusted Final Dough flour/water to the Total Formula recipe above (assuming I still use the same total weight of poolish of 438g). Does this approach make sense?

    Finally, when I add up all the ingredients in my spreadsheet, I get about 1100g, a bit more than the 1050 you mention above. Is that because the 1050 is after baking (and water loss), or am I just being too precise and pedantic and 1050 was where you started before adapting the SFBI recipe, etc?

    Thanks again — bread porn photos are brilliant. I’ve got some malt on order now, so this will be a perfect opportunity to try it out.

  5. says

    Brian, good catch about the salt, thanks and corrected! Yes, the formula adds up to 1100 grams but you will wind up with about 1050 — enough for three 350-g baguettes, the standard size — after you account for what sticks to the bowl, your hands, etc.

    You can substitute your 156%-hydration starter for the poolish; however, instead of using 438 g starter, I would calculate how much you need so that the amount of prefermented flour (219 g) remains the same. I calculate this at about 560 g. Then reduce the amount of water in the final dough by 122 g, which represents the additional water contributed by the starter, and keep the amount of flour the same. You can also reduce or eliminate the instant yeast, and you may need to adjust fermentation time.

  6. Patsy says

    That crust is the most beautiful colour!
    I look forward to your instructions for making dragon tails – I’ve never seen this shape before.

  7. says

    I have some diastic malt powder in the closet. I think I will start my poolish this morning and make these tomorrow. Do you think letting the poolish sit for 24 hours before using is too long??

  8. Irene says

    Just a hint on where to find malt powder, your local homebrew store should have dried malt powder as well as cans of liquid malt extract. The only thing that you will have to watch out for is that there is no hops flavoring in the malt. There are also malts that are a lot darker than others. Try to buy the lightest color that the store has in stock.

  9. bnom says

    Hi Susan,

    Have you explored whether or not one can achieve the same effect by substituting malt powder with malt syrup?

  10. says

    bnom, all of the barley malt syrup I have seen is non-diastatic, used for sweetening. However, I don’t know whether diastatic malt syrup is available; I have never looked for it. Anyone else please feel free to chime in.

  11. Brian says

    I’ve been using malt syrup for my bagels for years, ala Nancy Sliverton, who has a blurb on malt, but only non-diastatic syrup. I also brew, mostly all grain, which involves mashing (steeping) the grain. The temperature you steep at is an important factor and there is a stage where the temperature is raised to deactivate the proteins. As the syrup has to be heated to concentrate it, I’d guess that it would have to be non-diastatic.

    Thanks Irene about the home brew shop tip. Hadn’t occurred to me that this would be the same. I wonder if there is any difference between that and what gets sold for baking.

  12. Susan says

    Susan, although I’ve been baking for many years, I’m learning so much from your blog. Thank you.
    I love the dragon tails!

  13. Dennie says

    They look really nice. It seems like they have great volume. I am gonna try to diastic malt tomorrow! My baguette dough does seems to get “stringy” instead of smooth after the first fold of an hour. Maybe this will help.
    I am curious to see the crumb do you by any chance have pictures of that?

  14. says

    Susan,

    Wow what a blog! I started my journey into this wonderful hobby about six months ago. I discovered this recipe yesterday, and having some malt in the house, made a poolish before I went to bed.

    With the exception of 10 minutes under steam I precisely followed the recipe. (well lets not mention that I forgot to score them so very embarrassing!) The loaves (2 Baguettes and 2 Batards) came out looking divine and lovely golden brown. Under normal circumstances I would be quite pleased with the results … however your baguettes came out quite a different color.

    Would you have any insight into how to move the color closer to your results?

    Tom

  15. says

    Tom, are you looking for a deeper color? Try baking the baguettes longer. The baking times in all of my recipes are guidelines; exact times vary.

  16. says

    Any chance that you’ll be make dragon tales again soon, Susan? Until you do, am I correct that it is small boules placed in a line (like beads) and after the shaped loaf has risen, you snip each bead with scissors?

    This really is a stunning baguette!

  17. says

    Thanks Elizabeth. It’s on my list to post the shaping. It’s not separate boules, it’s a baguette that is snipped as you would for en epi, with each section folded back on itself. Hard to explain without pictures :)

  18. says

    Aha! Thank you, Susan. Armed with the handy words “en epi” I googled to find a video “La coupe en épi” at lepetitboulanger.com and I’m getting a glimmer of how you did this. I see what you mean about “hard to explain without pictures”….

    I’m looking forward to your depiction of “each section folded back on itself” (In the meantime, I hope I’ve guessed correctly that it means each section is set straight and tucked under, rather than pulled out diagonally to look like a spike).

  19. J says

    I ventured REALLY far out of my comfort range to make this bread today, and I have to say, WOW, this bread is incredible! It’s so tasty, so light to handle and not that hard to work with. Besides the colour not being dark enough I am making this again.

  20. Anna says

    Incredible looking bread, Susan!
    Is is possible to substitude the polish with 100 hydration starter and omit the yeast in the final dough recipe?
    Thank you so much,
    Anna

  21. Adelina says

    OMG – look at those baguettes that you baked!!! Do you have a bakery store or something?!!!

    I’m a beginner with bread baking….a VERY beginner – but your blog just keeps dragging me back into the kitchen so I can experiment with bread baking!

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  22. rose says

    WOW!! Great website…making the perfect French Baguette has been on my “go to” list. The time arrived about 10 days ago. I’m basing my recipe on Macrina Bakery’s. They use a starter (mature at 15 days), a small amount of whole wheat flour (I’m guessing for the caramel color via malt effect), and 3 rises (with turns) at room temp, 1 chilled, 1 after shaping (a total of 5 rises). Of course, these longer rises should aid in flavor development…any thoughts on how their method compares with yours?

  23. Dan says

    These baguettes are perfect if you slice them open long ways like a hot dog bun and top them with a tiny bit of shaved baker’s chocolate.

  24. says

    Like Brian, I also brew. The process of making malt syrup (or dried extract), will have deactived any of the enzymes.

    You can go to any homebrew store (online or local) and get some regular 2-row malted barley (aka base malt. sometimes sold by variety like Maris Otter, Golden Promise, etc) and just mill that yourself. They usually also sell the enzyme, too.

    I hope to make my poolish tomorrow morning and bake at night. I’ll be milling some grain tonight to add into my flour. Wish me luck!

  25. Brian says

    Hi Susan, I noticed that you use grams, which is a weight measure. I am new to baking, and am using cups, tablespoons, etc. for my measurements. Is there a correlation between weight (grams) and size measures, or do I need to use a scale to weigh my ingredients? This has the effect of making the water and flour of differing sizes, though the weight is the same in the poolish. Is this right? Thanks

  26. Carolyn says

    Hi Susan,
    I am fairly new to sourdough bread baking and I am enjoying your site – thank you for sharing your wealth of information. I have a question on the diastatic malt. I was advised to use malted barley flour to improve rise and texture. Is using diastatic malt the same as using the malted barley flour?
    Thanks!

  27. Thanks says

    Thank you very much for the awesome recipe…
    i guess this is the best baguette i ever made…
    the crust was aswesome… so the over spring…

  28. Thanks says

    Thank you very much for the awesome recipe…
    i guess this is the best baguette i ever made…
    the crust was aswesome… so the oven spring…

  29. says

    Hi Susan, may I add a variation on the effects of carmelisation for your Happy Home Bakers who love to try new things at home and who are interested in the subject of caramelisation and Malt Powder. Have any of you tried adding Rye Flour to your Baguettes. May I suggest 5- 7% of 100% of your total flour weight. It’s well worth it.

    Happy Baking

  30. Jane Marten says

    Hi Susan, I have only just discovered your wonderful site, with some of the most beautiful bread I have ever clapped eyes on. I would love to have a go at this recipe but wondered if liquid malt could be used or possibly a substitute for it. Many thanks for your wonderful creations.

    Jane

  31. says

    Jane, this post discusses diastatic malt, which I’ve never seen in liquid form. Maybe it is a brewing supply? If so, I’m not sure how much you’d use. The malt syrup found in markets in the sweetener section is non-diastatic.

  32. diGitel says

    During step #4, (you call it the First fermentation). Is the dough supposed to double in size or is their any indicator when it is done this step? Or just simply let it sit for the specified time. I’m in a tropical country and the temperature here I’m sure is much warmer than average.

  33. Talia says

    Beautiful loaves !!!
    Would love to get an adaptation for a recipe that ommits the yeast completely using a 100% hydration starter and spelt flour only.

  34. says

    Me again… the reason I’m asking is due to the size limit of my oven, which has a max width/depth of 40cm, so I can only fit 2 40cm baguettes at a time.

    I know, the alternative to reducing the quantities is to reduce the baguette weight by about 100g, but since this will be my first attempt, I want to start with a lower yield :)

  35. Newt Fawcett says

    You have a wonderful site for which I thank you.I just wanted to add a few comments that may be helpful to those just stating out to bake french style loaves. The proofing time is rather critical. Amalyse breaks down the starch in flour into simple sugars, as you have noted. If you, for example, allow the poolish in your recipe to rise for too long the viscosity of the poolish will decrease as the starch breaks down. the polish will then become syrupy. If you use it in that state you will get a flavorful loaf, but it will be dense and heavy rather then light and airy. The same results from using too much diastatic malt, as you have noted. Therefore it is necessary to use the poolish at the proper state of fermentation when it is light and airy which is achieved by following your fermentation times. the other proofing times are equally critical. If the dough is allowed to proof too long either before or after forming into loaves, the starch will break down too much and again a heavy, dense loaf will result. Therefore I advise anyone to carefully time each stage if you want the best result. Also, to achieve good oven spring a heavy ceramic baking stone is very useful. This has considerable heat capacity, so if the oven is properly preheated to 475 deg., the baking stone will retain heat even when the oven door is opened briefly to put in the loaves. It is advisable to wait a few minutes after the oven reaches 475 deg to put the loaves in to bake. This will assure that the stone has come up to the full 475 deg. Putting the loaves directly on the stone gives excellent thermal contact and results in very good oven spring. Putting the loaves on a metal baking pan which is then in direct contact with the stone produces nearly as good a result. Either approach gives somewhat better oven spring then placing a baking pan onto an open oven rack that does not retain heat nearly so well as a baking stone. This heat retention function is the reason why a baking stone is used if you want really good oven spring. I really serves no other purpose. Also I have noted, and found from years of baking, that the easiest and most effective way of providing steam in the first few minutes of baking is to put a shallow but large diameter ceramic dish onto a rack a few inches above the baking stone. I use approximately half a cup of water in a 14″ diameter, black ceramic tart pan. I put this into the oven when I turn it on to preheat. By the time the oven has reached 475 the water is hot and steamy. After about seven minutes of baking, the water has evaporated, providing steam during the initial baking phase. The steam slows the baking of the crust allowing time for the the internal temperature of the loaf to rise. A thin, crispy crust results. Without steam in the initial baking phase, a much heavier crust results. If your recipe and times are carefully followed, and the correct flour is used, a wonderful baguette is produced every time. Of course one must adjust the amount of water according to which brand of bread flour used. Thanks again, for a great website.

  36. Grannys42 says

    Hi, tried wading my way through all of the post and gave myself a headache. Thought it easier to go to the source. Have just been to the brew shop and asked for diastatic yeast, but it was liquid (wondered why she looked at me strangely when I said I had to add a pinch). They had many types of powdered malt but she said the only one that was diastatic was the liquid. Was she correct?
    Look forward to someone making head or tail of my problem.
    PS. Love the baguettes.

      • Grannys42 says

        Hi Susan, yes I’m from Australia. Love you site and was just reading someone’s comment about your recipes in grams and not in cups. I love it. Most bread sites are in The US and therefore in Imperial. We, in Aussie, are in metric. Read your recipe on sourdough starter and am about throw mine out and start again. Here, it is winter and my starter is just laying in the container playing dead. Will try again when spring arrives.
        Thanks

  37. Joanna says

    I’m very new to bread baking and I may sound like a fool for asking this, but what kind of flour should I be using? Can I use whole wheat bread flour for the full amount?

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