Bread and Ale

Ms Ann Pudney measures protease enzymes in samples of germinated wheat.

A number of bakeries are trying wheat malt from boutique breweries rather than the traditional barley malt in their dough mixes.

The project began with an investigation at the Bread Research Institute, funded by growers through the GRDC, into ways of improving the quality of products made from weather-damaged wheat. The chemical constituents of interest are protease enzymes, which break down proteins. Proteases are active during germination, and function in bread-making to temper the strength of dough.

The scientists found that proteases from wheat flour could not break down the proteins in barley malt, but they do break down proteins in wheat malt.

Subtle differences

Alerted to the difference between barley and wheat malt, the researchers compared doughs made in the usual way from barley malt with those made from wheat malt. They found that there were subtle but detectable differences in processing variables, particularly in relation to reducing dough strength. These differences had also been observed in flours derived from weather-damaged wheat.

The results sparked some interest by the bread industry just as a source of wheat malt became available with the arrival of boutique breweries in recent years. The breweries make their own malt, mostly from wheat.

While there are some differences of opinion over the flavour of the wheat product, some breadmakers are pleased with the result, and some have made the switch permanent.

Nice flavour profile

Wheat malt usage is restricted primarily because of a shortage of supply from the breweries and commercial maltsters.

Specialty Cereals, a firm on the lookout for new applications, does some work with malter's wheat but reports that it is not used extensively in bread at the moment. Spokesperson Stephen Dunn sees applications in breakfast foods and snack foods.

"Wheat malt has a very nice flavour profile which has potential." Mr Dunn said.

Bill Gill, Managing Director of Adelaide Makings, similarly finds that demand is limited. He does, however, supply a couple of buyers and is aware that boutique breweries produce a small quantity each year.

The project has not stopped there. Wheat malt from boutique breweries was intended for beer making and is not ideal for bread making. Researchers are now looking at ways to improve the malting process for the baking market.