Flavorful considerations

As sweeteners, malt extracts and honey contribute to the finished product’s sensory profile. This contribution can be a help or a hindrance, depending on the product.

“When someone is using honey, usually it’s because they want the honey flavor or they are looking for a highly sweet, label-friendly sweetener,” Mr. Bodner said. “It’s usually a combination of these two things.”

Before considering honey’s unique flavor, it’s important to point out that it can be up to one-and-a-half times sweeter than sugar. Not only do bakers want this ingredient for its flavor notes, but also it allows them to replace sugar with less honey to gain the same level of sweetness.

“If you’re using a honey that is significantly sweeter than sugar, then you can cut down on the overall sweetener level in your product,” Mr. Seiz said.

Both honey and malt extracts are often employed for their flavors in the bar category and in whole wheat breads. In bars, honey and malt extract flavors can enhance the existing flavors, which work nicely with their natural binder functionality that bar manufacturers find so helpful.

“A lot of bars use honey because it goes well with the grain and nut makeup,” Mr. Bodner said. “It’s a good fit for that flavor profile.”

During the past few years, whole wheat breads have gained traction against white breads with consumers. However, while people want more whole grains, sometimes the bitterness doesn’t suit their palates. Honey can be a way to make whole grains more palatable to consumers.

“It really rounds out that flavor profile of whole wheat or whole grain product and gives them a touch of sweetness to really complement those types of products,” Mr. Seiz said.

Malt’s caramel-like flavor is most often associated with malted milk balls and malted milkshakes, but its flavor applications can go beyond the confectionery. It also can have a positive impact on whole wheat breads.

“Dark malt extract can be used in a whole wheat bread product to enhance the internal or external color characteristics of the final product,” Mr. Bright said.

Bakers aren’t necessarily locked into honey and malt’s flavors and colors, however, when using these ingredients. It’s true, those flavors will always be present in baked goods featuring these ingredients, but bakers can play with the flavor by experimenting across the honey and malt spectrums. Both flavors and colors vary depending on the source.

Darker honeys tend to have more flavor while lighter honeys, like a white honey, have a lower flavor profile.

“You don’t lose the flavor altogether, but you can select the honey based on floral source and color to get a delicate, lighter flavor,” Mr. Bodner said.

Malts are similar.

“Malt extracts also can come in various degrees of brown color, ranging from light to dark,” Mr. Bright said. “The choice of malt extract color can enhance the baker’s end product characteristics.”

Mr. Kappas likened malt extract varieties to beer varieties. Just as beers range from light-colored lagers and pilsners to darker browns and blacks of stouts and porters, malts too enjoy a wide variety of colors and flavors that bakers can keep in their bag of tricks.

Whether malt extracts or honey are the right fit for a baked good application is up to formulating and sensory tests. In the right applications, malt extract and honey can deliver enhanced finished products with interesting flavor and just the right amount of sweet, all with an ingredient list acceptable to even the most scrutinizing consumer.