One culinary mystery that I’ve always wondered about but never had the energy to actually look up is what exactly “malt” means. As a kid, the word was mostly associated with malted milk balls, the worst of the movie theater confection options (sorry, Whoppers fans). As an adult, I’m more familiar with the word in the context of alcohol—malt liquor, single-malt whiskey, etc.
So, what does malt actually mean? Let’s turn to the folks at Dictionary.com: “1. germinated grain, usually barley, used in brewing and distilling. 2. any alcoholic beverage, as beer, ale, or malt liquor, fermented from malt.” The double definitions help explain why malted milk balls don’t taste like whiskey, and vice versa.
But let’s leave the alcohol aside for a moment (a difficult proposition, I know) and learn a little more about malt as the basis of malted milk powder. What exactly is this flavorful substance? Let’s find out.
What is malted milk powder?
As noted above, “malt” is a grain, typically barley, that is soaked in water until it begins to germinate, at which point the grain is dried. Malted milk powder is a powder—technically a gruel (Yum!)—made from malted grain, wheat flour, and evaporated milk powder. The resulting concoction is added to foods or beverages for its distinctive flavors, or used in baking.
The product was developed by pharmacist James Horlick and originally sold in Chicago in 1873. While Horlick envisioned it as a formula for infants, it gained popularity for other uses, too—notably, as a light, healthy addition to the packs of Antarctic explorers.
How is malted milk powder made?
Do you feel like an expert on what “malt” is yet? As a refresher, it’s a grain that has begun to sprout but then stopped. Basically, this is just a way of making it easier to modify the grain’s starches into sugars.
Another ingredient is evaporated whole milk powder. You will not be shocked to learn that this is made by evaporating milk, which is to say, removing the liquid, until only a dehydrated solid remains.
Combine these ingredients with wheat flour, and you’ve got malted milk powder!
Uses for malted milk powder
While Malted Milk Balls may be the most well-known application for this delicious gruel, there are actually many products that utilize malted milk powder. These include malted milkshakes, malted milk biscuits, some hot drink mixes like Ovaltine, and some bagel recipes.
But if you’re curious about how you can use malted milk powder in the kitchen, there are also numerous recipes available. Insanely Good Recipes has a comprehensive list of links to recipes using malted milk powder including malted cookies, malted milk blondies, and malted waffles. One that looks particularly delicious is from Baking-Sense for Malted Milk Blondies with Malted Milk Frosting. You’ll need butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, flour, whole milk, and, of course, the malted milk powder for that signature tang.
Whether you’re an infant, an Antarctic explorer, or an enjoyer of desserts, malted milk has a surprising variety of uses. What’s your favorite way to include malt in your meal?