Sam Kincaid, Chef/Co-owner of Cadence Restaurant


It was through a fellow malt-loving baker that Sam Kincaid first came into contact with Deer Creek Malthouse several years ago.

At the time, Sam’s friend Alex Bois (former head baker of High Street on Market; current owner/baker at Lost Bread Co.) had beensearching for ways to improve quality in bread using local grains. Alex utilized malt for its valuable function in bread structure; Sam, for its flavor and texture in pastry. Both culinarians were after malting grains that were grown locally using sound practices. When Alex found Deer Creek Malthouse to be the ideal supplier for this need, he was quick to spread the word. 

Today, as one of the chef-owners of Cadencea casual fine-dining restaurant located at the meeting point of South Kensington, Fishtown, and Northern Liberties in Philadelphia–Sam is always looking to find ways to incorporate grains and malt in the menu, and she’s happy to highlight locally sourced ingredientswhen she can. “The highly useful thing about Deer Creek is that they malt nearly every grain, and each has its own unique flavor profile,” says the talented baker. Variety is the name of the game at Cadence; because the restaurant’s menus change constantly, the ingredients change, too.

“We have used cooked whole wheat berries with lentils, charcoal, and wood-roasted celery root for an entrée dish,” Sam recalls. “A chocolate tart crust featured Deer Creek’s malted buckwheat flour, along with additional PA buckwheat flour. Smoked malt is also a key flavor and tenderizing ingredient for savory and sweet shortbread (sandwiched with duck liver mousse and black currant jam, respectively), as well as granola.” 

Along with Sam, Jon Nodler and Michael Fry are the other co-owners of Cadence. Though their 38-seat BYOB turned one year old in March, all three chefs have been working together at various restaurants for five years. They are like-minded in their approach, making it a priority to work with local producers and artisans whose practices they respect. “As chef-owners with a breadth of interests, we think we do a pretty good job of creating a full package that is at once comfortable and forward-thinking, if in subtle ways,” Sam states. “We are able to fill our menus and space with quality and character, translating the raw ingredients and crafted work into an engaging and authentic experience for our guests.”

So how does one incorporate malt into pastry creation?

Sam had always sought out natural alternatives to sugar for sweetening pastries, and she was happy to find that malt is a delicious option. It’s also versatile enough to serve unique purposes in a variety of baked goods.

“I generally incorporate a portion of total flour in non-diastatic malt flour, 15-50%, depending if I need subtle, earthy sweetness to round out a full portion of a certain pastry (for example, malted spelt flour in a fruit-filled coffee cake) or high-impact in a single bite (such as in smoked malt shortbread with duck liver mousse). Non-diastatic is important because it will contribute a naturally sweet flavor without significantly altering the structure of the pastry.” 

Then–as opposed to flour–there’s whole malt:

 “Whole malt of any variety is loaded with flavor in its raw, or smoked, form. I like to briefly toast until fragrant, then steep in milk for using as the base in custard, whether spun into ice cream or not. I steep overnight at a high concentration for intensity of flavor to use in the context of a plated dessert, but you can easily keep it subtle and still achieve that nostalgic malted milk flavor.”

And finally, for the home bakers, Sam suggests an experimental approach.

“It’s just important to experiment with the ratio and type of malt you enjoy and are looking for. Start low (10-15% of the total flour in a cookie or cake recipe) without changing any other amount in the recipe, and increase as desired for more intensity. Also note how the perceived sweetness of the pastry tastes as you simply increase malt, and try decreasing the total amount of sugar. You’ll end up with a totally satisfying pastry that tastes naturally sweet and has great depth of flavor.”

-Written by Paige Triola