Barley is the most commonly malted grain because its mild flavour, combined with a high enzyme and starch content, make for an excellent malt. Malt is produced by germinating grain which is dried before it can fully sprout. To produce malt extract, the malted barley is mashed with water and allowed to sit while the starch converts into sugars. The liquid is then drained from the grain and evaporated into light or dark barley malt extract.
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The oldest-known use for malted barley dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who germinated the barley in baskets suspended inside wells. They used the resulting malted grain to brew intoxicating beverages. In modern times, beer and whiskey are still brewed from malted barely. Most distilleries use barley mash, but home brewers often employ dark barley malt extract as a substitute. Malt extract is also used in non-alcoholic beer.
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Barley malt extract is a thick, sweet, caramel-coloured liquid, with a characteristic malt flavour. This liquid can be dried into barley malt extract powder. In both forms, it is used to sweeten and enhance the flavour of many types of food products, such as breads, bagels, breakfast cereal, crackers, baby food and ice cream.
In addition to being sweet, barley malt extract contains amino acids, vitamin B and easily-digestible protein. This makes it a popular sugar substitute in health food products, and a sweetener for tonic beverages.
Barley malt extract mixed with cod liver oil can be purchased for use as a dietary supplement. The primary medicinal use for barely malt extract is to promote bowel health by encouraging regular bowel movements. According to Dr. Bhupinder K, M.D. in askmedicaldoctor.com, barley malt syrup is a mild stool softener which can be used to treat constipation in infants.
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