Bakery Bulletin by Philippa Kelly

Malt loaf
Malt loaf

In 1890, the United States granted a patent to a Scotsman called John Montgomerie.

The patent was entitled Making Malt Bread. Although there was already an active patent dated 1886, John’s version was different because it included a previously unused process: saccharification.

Pretty sure I could get that done at the tattoo parlour.

Or I could do it to a goat at a religiously ritualistic soiree. Not really. Save the goats, man.

Listen up (if you’re reading this out loud, and you’re therefore about seven) or just pay attention, because here comes the science bit.

Oh it’s so Pantene in the nineties, I love it. Saccharification is all about the degradation of a substance, but not like calling it names in public or using it in snide memes; more like physically breaking it down in a complicated and boring way.

Let’s start with hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is the cleavage of chemical bonds (grow up) by the addition of water. Cleavage as in a split, like cell division, not the other cleavage that your immature brain is still finding amusing. No? Just me then.

When a carbohydrate is broken down by hydrolysis, the sucrose is separated into glucose and fructose and bang, that’s saccharification. At least I think so. You don’t know any better, so what does it matter.

So our saccharine friend John warmed a portion of dough mixed with diastatic malt extract, which is the first diastase enzyme ever discovered, and diastase is from the Greek diastasis which means separation, and beyond that, I’m none the wiser either.

Anyway, he heated the dough and maintained the temperature in order that the enzymes from the extract would pre-digest some of the starch. I’m sure some other stuff happens too, and there’s some kneeding and an oven, and the end result is a malt loaf.

It’s hard to believe that those sticky, stodgy heavy little loaves have such a complex production method. Malt loaf is the swan of the baking world, with the legs under water going like the clappers. Or like riding a bike - not the not forgetting it part, but the fact that it seems really simple but is in fact akin to splitting the atom.

I mean, it doesn’t remain that difficult, and I do know how to ride a bike, but seriously, how hard was that at first?

The best known malt loaf has to be Soreen. It was invented by Mr Sorensen and Mr Green, hence the name.

It’s still a weird name, but not as weird as Grensen. Other people make malt loaf, but nobody really cares. It’s sad, so sad, it’s a sad sad situation, but Soreen seems to be the best known brand.