Russian Red Rye Malt (Solod in Russian) is a powder used in baking applications and alcohol production. It’s made from berries of rye that were sprouted, fermented, dried, then ground – in that order. The word ‘solod’ comes from ‘sladki’ or in Old Russian ‘solodki’, which means ‘sweet’.
The reason I wanted to share a recipe is because it’s next to impossible to procure real Russian red rye malt in the US.
TYPES OF RUSSIAN MALT
There are two main types of Russian malt – white barley and fermented red rye (source). White barley malt goes to the kiln right after sprouting, while red rye malt is subjected to 3-4 days of lacto fermentation between sprouting and drying.
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to describe commercial production of fermented red rye malt, with some notes of variance by home malters, and then provide a recipe of how I make it at home.
RUSSIAN RED RYE MALT IS NON-DIASTATIC
Diastase is an enzyme complex that develops during sprouting of grain. It helps convert starch into maltose (sugar) in presence of water. The diastase complex includes alpha-amylase, beta-amylase, along with a couple of other enzymes. Diastatic power is the rate of conversion of starch. For example, if a malt has more diastatic power, it can facilitate faster rate of fermentation in both bread or beer making (diastase + flour + water). Starches in flour split and become sugar, and sugar feeds the yeast (whether it’s wild sourdough yeast, or brewers yeast).
RUSSIAN RED RYE MALT (SOLOD) COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION STAGES
- Selecting and washing rye berries
- 64.5ºF (18ºC) soaking (6-8 hours)
- 59-60ºF (15-16ºC) sprouting (2-4 days, and up to 8-9 days)
- 113ºF-149ºF (45ºC – 65ºC) fermentation (2-3 days)
- Drying, increasing temperature to 176ºF (80ºC) (2 days)
- Resting (3-4 weeks)
RYE BERRIES FOR SPROUTING SHOULD BE USED SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER HARVESTING
Traditionally, the grain used for sprouting was several months old (last year’s harvest). Folks would use grain collected in the fall to make solod in the spring. The rate of sprouting should be at least 90%, which is impossible to achieve with fresh grain because grains are programmed to delay germination until favorable conditions are reached, a.k.a. not a random warm day in December (source).
I’ve read that some folks would test a sample of 100 grains to check for ‘sproutability’ (after removing grains that come to float) – if only 10 or less out of 100 don’t sprout – the rye is good. Another fun fact – people compare the smell of sprouted grains to that of fresh cucumbers.
After washing and removing broken and imperfect pieces, grains get a soak for 6-8 hours. The best temperature for soaking is 64.5ºF (18ºC), it allows to keep growth of unwanted-at-the-moment microorganisms at bay. Ideal moisture in commercial production is about 45%. So if you want to be super precise (I don’t!), you can measure the weight of dry grain, and after soaking their weight should increase by 45%. The next step is sprouting, which could take from 2 to 4 days. The sprouts should not become longer than the grains themselves.
FERMENTED SPROUTED GRAINS
After rye grains sprout, they then undergo fermentation. Lactic bacteria are naturally present on the surface of all things. When combined with ideal temperature and moisture, lactic bacteria have a perfect environment to proliferate. In large production, warmer temperature is semi self-induced: the grain is sprayed with warm water (104º-122ºF or 40-50ºC) until it reaches 53-56% moisture. After 13-14 hours, rye self warms to 113º-122ºF (45-50ºC), and then the temperature is artificially raised to 140-149ºF (60-65ºC) and maintained for the next two days.
As a result of reactions between maltose, glucose, amino acids and polypeptides (all from the grains), we get melanoidins and other aroma-forming substances. Melanoidins are dark in color, and that is what gives red rye malt its characteristic color.
DRY MALTED FERMENTED RYE BERRIES
Now onto the finishing step – drying fermented grain. This takes about two days, and the grain undergoes three stages: (1) physiological – temperature stays at 113ºF (45ºC) but moisture is reduced to 30%. At this point, enzymatic activity continues. (2) fermentation phase – temperature is increased to 158ºF (70ºC), moisture level plunges to 10%, growth stops, grain content separates into distinctive groups of chemical elements. (3) chemical phase – temperature is increased to 176ºF (80ºC), sugars, amino acids and polypeptides react to form melanoidins and other aroma-forming substances (source). Melanoidins = deliciousness. Melanoidins are dark in color, and that is what gives red rye malt its characteristic color. It is during this production phase that we notice solod‘s mouthwatering aroma.
The sprouted tails should be removed before milling, because they have bitter aftertaste and tend to absorb too much water.The way Russian home malters do it is by tossing and rubbing dried rye malt in a bag, then using a fan to blow away lighter particles.
REST FINISHED MALT
Unmilled solod needs to rest for 3-4 weeks. During this time, its moisture level will increase to 5-6%, as will activity of its amylolytic enzymes.
USE OF SOLOD IN BREAD BAKING
Fermented red rye malt improves bread’s crumb stability and overall texture, gives it wonderful aroma and saturated color. It is used in baking a number of commercial varieties of bread, such as Borodinski bread, brewed bread (заварной), etc. White (barley) solod is used in baking Riga Bread (рижский хлеб), another popular traditional rye variety.
Generally red rye malt is used for rye bread, and white barley malt – when baking with wheat. Different varieties of flour react to solod differently. For example, hard wheat needs more solod than soft wheat. Also, solod significantly improves taste in whole grain bread, and contributes to higher dough elasticity.
It is a well-known fact that because of lower and weaker gluten content, rye and rye-wheat varieties of bread come out short. Adding solod to rye-wheat breads adds pronounced rye flavor and helps dough rise higher.
WHERE TO BUY RUSSIAN FERMENTED RED RYE MALT
The only easily available malt that’s close to Russian solod is Fawcett’s Crystal Red Rye Malt, which can be found at NYBakers.com here, and most home brew stores. It’s worth to note that Crystal malts have zero diastatic power, expressed as 0°L (degrees Lintner).
If you know of other sources (especially for the actual Russian-made solod) in the US, please let me know in the comments below. I won’t be too sad if I could simply buy the stuff.
HOW I MAKE RUSSIAN RED RYE MALT
Rye berries, any amount
Rinse rye berries and soak them in filtered water for 6-8 hours (I use a sprouting jar). If possible, keep the jar at a cooler temperature, best around 65ºF. Here is the jar I use.
Drain the water, tilt the jar to the side to let the air circulate freely, leave at cellar temperature (59-60ºF).
Rinse and drain twice a day (morning and evening) until rye starts to sprout. The amount of time it takes to sprout varies, just make sure your sprouts don’t become longer than grains. I let the grains sprout a little, just to show the tails, because I don’t want to deal with removing the tails.
Transfer the grains into a loosely covered glass dish, and a place that can maintain temperature of 113-122ºF (I use a ‘bread proof’ option on my oven and wrap the dish in foil) for 12 hours. Then I increase the temperature to 140ºF and maintain it for the next 36 hours; until solod darkens in color and has a slight malty aroma.
At this point, grain needs to dry. First I spread it thin on a large jelly-roll sheet, and leave it at ‘bread-proof’ temperature of my oven for 12 hours.
I then increase temperature to 159ºF and dry for 12 more hours.
One more temperature increase – 176ºF – for 12-18 hours, depending on the level of darkness I prefer at the moment.
After I cool the malt, I store it in a loosely covered jar for a month before milling it.
Now you can understand why I would much rather buy the prepared version.
- Rye berries, any amount
- Filtered water
- Rinse rye berries and soak them in filtered water for 6-8 hours (I use a sprouting jar). If possible, keep the jar at a cooler temperature, best around 65ºF. Here is the jar I use.
- Drain the water, tilt the jar to the side to let the air circulate freely, leave at cellar temperature (59-60ºF).
- Rinse and drain twice a day (morning and evening) until rye starts to sprout. The amount of time it takes to sprout varies, just make sure your sprouts don't become longer than grains. I let the grains sprout a little, just to show the tails, because I don't want to deal with removing the tails.
- Transfer the grains into a loosely covered glass dish, and a place that can maintain temperature of 113-122ºF (I use a 'bread proof' option on my oven and wrap the dish in foil) for 12 hours. Then I increase the temperature to 140ºF and maintain it for the next 36 hours; until solod darkens in color and has a slight malty aroma.
- At this point, grain needs to dry. First I spread it thin on a large jelly-roll sheet, and leave it at 'bread-proof' temperature of my oven for 12 hours.
- I then increase temperature to 159ºF and dry for 12 more hours.
- One more temperature increase - 176ºF - for 12-18 hours, depending on the level of darkness I prefer at the moment.
- After I cool the malt, I store it in a loosely covered jar for a month before milling it.
- Now you can understand why I would much rather buy the prepared version.