I had some delicious Malt Loaf the other day, and it took me right back to my childhood. Malt loaves were a common treat in the North of England in the 1950's - perhaps they still are - I am sure one of you will update me.My recent experience was of a dark fruit loaf of the almost-cake variety, whereas the one I remember was unapologetically a type of bread. No matter, it is the malty taste which is the appeal.
Malting is the process by which grain - most commonly barley - is soaked and allowed to germinate - but before germination progresses too far, it is stopped by drying in hot air. The process, in a nutshell, encourages the enzymatic converstion of the starches in the grain to sugars - hence it becomes sweeter. Most conveniently, it also converts the protein in the grain to forms which can more easily be used by yeasts.
Malted grain has been used in brewing and distilling and vinegar-making for thousands of years, and more recently in confectionary, milk beverage, and breakfast cereal manufacture. Without malt, there would be a serious loss of beverages. Without malt, there would be a serious loss of beverages. There would be no malt whisky, malt beer, or malted milkshakes. I also recently discovered that there is such a thing as 'malt tea', which is 'a liquid infusion of the mash in brewing', which sounds like alcoholic tea to me, and therefore something I must track down with great urgency. And without malt, there would - Heaven Forbid! - be no malt vinegar for your chips (NOT your French fries) or to make genuine, authentic Mint Sauce for your roast lamb.
The dominant sugar in malted grain is the disaccharide, maltose, and it is what makes 'malt extract' ('a sweet sticky substance obtained from wort') so delicious. It is considered very nutritious - or used to be - and was given as a chaser to the disgusting cod-liver oil which the government provided to the children of post-war Britain as a supplement. There is, I must tell you from experience, not sufficient malt extract in the world to take away the everlasting taste of cod-liver oil in the mouth. Malt extract is essential for making malt loaf of any variety, so hie off to the store and buy some. In my local supermarket it is now inexplicably placed in the 'dessert isle' with the maple syrup and so on, rather than the sugar section where it used to be alongside the Golden Syrup and Black Treacle. I give you a recipe for a large-family quantity of malt loaf, made without yeast, and hope you manage to keep your spoons and fingers out of the malt extract tin long enough for you to have some left over for baking.
Aerated Malt Bread.
This is an excellent bread, which acts as both a tonic and a laxative. Weig 8 lbs. od granulated wheat meal, 8 oz. of cream of tartar, and 2 oz. of carbonate of soda. Sift all these ingredients three times through the sieve, make a large bay in the centre of the meal, and add 8 oz. of malto-peptone extract, 1 3/4 oz. of salt, and nearly half a gallon of fresh buttermilk. Dissolve the salt and malt extract in the milk, then make int a nice-sized dough. Weigh off at 1 3/4 lb, mould in oval, and place in dusted oval tines, then turn them out onto a large flat tin, and bake in a sound oven. They are sold at fourpence each.
The Modern Practical Bread Baker (1903), by Robert Wells.