T he great thing about using malts in breads and cakes is that they can replace quite a bit of the salt and sugar." That statement, from Andy Janes, general manager - marketing, Muntons Malted Ingredients, should have the Food Standards Agency beating a path to its door to find out more.

It should at least make the FSA’s ears prick up, because it fits neatly in with the road of no return, down which all in the baking indus- try are being guided - towards perceived ’healthier’ products.

A supermarket buyer was recently overheard saying: "Soon, we want all additives out, all E numbers out!" That’s very commendable, particularly if you read recent press reports on how they affect children’s moods and concentration, but in most cases these need replacing with something else. And even before consumers get around to reading the label, they need to find the product appealing enough to pick up in the first place.

Consider the humble chocolate muffin. It needs to be dark, delicious and draw you to purchase. There is no doubt that most consumers would choose a velvety dark brown muffin over a mid-brown version. Just compare the two pictured below. But the one with most eye-appeal - surely the one on the right - is not full of extra chocolate, artificial colouring or flavourings. It contains simple, clean-label malt.

Muntons, based at Stowmarket in Suffolk and Bridlington in Yorkshire, has been making malt for over 80 years and exports all over the world. In this quite clever muffin test, carried out by the company, Muntons introduced its latest product, Torrax, which, as the firm’s technical expert Jonathan Pritchard explains, is an ultra-dark malt, providing just the right colour, hue, texture and flavour - not only to muffins but also mincemeat and breads.

Pritchard says: "Malt is a hugely versatile product. We are very proactive, looking for solutions to customers’ needs and then working closely with them. Torrax has arisen out of the desire for darker breads and muffins, which have a ’healthier’ look and the need for totally clean-label goods."

"In many cases, malt can be used to replace some of the salt and sugar," he stresses. "We have a great deal of knowledge about malts and make sure our customers obtain the best results from that knowledge, which can also improve the colour of breadcrumb, the texture of crust and the sweetness of the products. Muntons can work with them to achieve the desired results."

Torrax malt is made from 100% pure roasted, malted (sprouted) barley. It is naturally resistant to high temperatures, as well as freeze-thaw instability and extremes of pH. It is available in liquid and powder form and in convenient package sizes to suit large craft bakeries, as well as wholesale, plant and in-store bake-ries, explains Janes. "We believe it makes good products great and that can be reflected in the price to consumers, as well as on the label."

In the past 10 years, Muntons has spent £35 million on expanding its production plant. Janes says the company buys barley and wheat seeds that are grown under controlled conditions of heat and light. This releases natural enzymes that convert starch to sugar and these naturally produced sugars make for a naturally sweeter product.

Wheat malt can be cut - or ’kibbled’ - so you get the goodness of whole grain, which can be added to the loaf to give texture. The grains can also be steamed and squashed between rollers. This makes wholegrain flakes, which are tasty, easy to digest and add texture and sweetness. Says Janes: "We also make flour by grinding the malted grain. The inclusion of malt flour at a rate of 5% is a total flavour-enhancer."

The flakes and kibbled products were developed for in-store and wholesale bakers to be used as a finishing product on the crust - for example, nutty malt which is said to add a soft sweet nutty finish.

With Torrax, the new ultra-dark product is formed by taking roasted malt extracts, then putting them through an ultra-filter and extracting the concentrate for use in breads, cakes muffins and mincemeat. A substance that claims to add or reduce sweetness, add colour, add flavour, add texture and even reduce the need for salt almost sounds too good to be true. "Yes, Muntons malt extracts do all that," says Janes, "and they are also wholesome and completely clean-label."

Well, if you had showered with water, then soaked in a bath, before being steam-cleaned and then dried off, you’d be squeaky clean too. n


=== Malted flour ===


? Soak grains in water

? Germinate

? Spray with water and heat

? Put in a kiln (oven)

? Heat to dry


=== Extracts process ===

? Make mash by crushing grains of wheat or malted barley.

? Cover with warm water, while starch converts to sugar. The sugars range from glucose to complex sugars that are broken down in the body not the mouth. The end result is called a wort (used by brewers as the basis for beer).

? The wort is boiled in a vacuum to give a sweet brown syrup with a beautiful flavour. Muntons then sells it as a syrup or powder.

? As a syrup, it is added to the dough as a natural flavour enhancer and it also helps bakers reduce the amount of salt needed.

? As a dry powder, it can be added to lots of different baked products and is therefore suited to the smaller (not plant) user. n