Make It Malted

I’m on a malted mission. Fate (aka a co-worker) handed me two brimming quarts of malt powder (the unsellable remainders of an exploded bulk package) and I took them. In return, I accepted a challenge to make use of otherwise-trash: to feature malt as the star ingredient in delicious, nutritious eats.

Okay, so I’m no gallant, dare-seeking cook. I just couldn’t decline that sweet, sweet malt whose flavor makes me so weak in the knees and has me begging please for more. If you’re also that kind of person whose best childhood holiday memories are the Whopper-munching ones, then I’ll bet that you too would’ve offered your left big toe for those containers if given the chance. Thankfully I didn’t have to barter for them. Otherwise I would likely be short one extremity right now.

So let me get this straight — you don’t share my excessive passion for Whoppers, Maltsers, Ovaltine, malted milk shakes? Maybe you’ve never experienced them? If not, I wouldn’t be surprised — malt treats are not too common these days.

Mind you, this wasn’t always the case. Plain old malt has been lingering around for centuries — around barley wheat, that is. Malt is the product of steeping, germinating, and drying grains, a process during which enzymes modify the grains’ starches into sugar (maltose). These naturally sweet grains are most commonly used in brewing beer and distilling whisky liquor, but are also found in yeasted breads and mixed with milk (and sometimes eggs), making malted milk. We can thank the late 19th century Swiss chemist and creator of Ovaltine, Georg Wander, and British pharmacist, James Horlick of Horlicks, for the latter, which they turned into powder form and prescribed as a nutritive “health food”. Who knew that malted milk drinks like Ovaltine and Horlicks were really supposed to be good for you?

If you, either a fellow malt fanatic or not, have every tried to find pure malt extract powder, then you can undoubtedly understand my excitement in receiving a bulk quantity of the stuff basically for free. While malted milk powder (Ovaltine, Carnation, Milo) is more or less widely available, the unadulterated, dehydrated malt extract requires significantly more digging. That is, of course, unless you have a brewing supply shop or specialty grocer in your neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, we’re not all so fortunate.

The effort often required to score the extract may not be worth it to all but it’s worth it to me because, compared to malted milk powder, the malt flavor provided by malt powder is both more intense and less cloyingly sweet.

My first venture into malt land, the land of decadence, is Baked’s Vanilla Bean Malt Cake. While the recipe here calls for malted milk powder and yields an undoubtedly lovely, coffee or tea time-worthy cake, the malt is difficult to discern — it’s a very subtle, nutty undertone. Next time, I plan to experiment with the pure malt powder in hopes of achieving a louder malt presence. I’m looking for something that will even make the Whoppers say WOW.