Malted milk powder is a combination of wheat flour, non-diastatic malt flour, and powdered milk. These ingredients are evaporated to give the powder its fine appearance and to make it easily absorbable in liquids. It often contains additional ingredients, like sugar, flavorings like vanilla or chocolate, and preservatives. Some forms are fortified with vitamins to boost its nutritional value.
Since malt powder is naturally sweet, many people enjoy malted milk powder. When Horlicks® first manufactured it in Chicago, it was sold as an infant formula. It quickly became popular among adults too, and many people used it to encourage children to drink more milk. The powder really gained popularity in the 1920s when it was added to milkshakes and used in the candy malted milk balls, which are covered with a layer of chocolate.
A few years prior to items made with malted milk gaining popularity at soda fountains, Switzerland was enjoying Ovomaltine, later to be known in the US as Ovaltine®. In the 1930s, radio shows like Little Orphan Annie popularized the drink, which contained eggs. Later variants would contain vitamins to add to the claim that Ovaltine®: was very healthy
In the 1950s, Carnation® became a successful distributor of malted milk powder for use in drinks. Like Ovaltine®, Carnation offered plain and chocolate versions of the powder. These two companies soon replaced Horlicks® as more popular brands, and now it’s much more difficult to find Horlicks®: on the market.
While most malted milk powder variants began without sweeteners, relying on the natural sweetness of barley malt, most modern variants add plenty of sugar. They still may be great ways to get a child to drink milk, especially when calorie consumption is too low, but in general, the sugar content is so high, they should be considered treats rather than staples.
The powder can be used in a variety of baked goods to give them more flavor. There are recipes for pancakes, biscuits, and muffins made with the basic powder, without the extra addition of sugar and preservatives. These add slightly more protein to baked goods, and many assert they significantly improve the taste. Malt powder on its own is a natural sweetener, which means that the sugar required in recipes for these baked goods can usually be reduced.