Spent Grain Bread

Apparently one of the main reasons folks visit this site is because they are searching for ‘spent grain bread’. I feel bad because up until now I have failed to post a recipe for the bread. I have been toying with various recipes to find one I like. At the moment I dont have a favorite recipe, but rather, a few little hints and tricks which work with most crusty bread recipes. I apologize that recipe bits of this are written in cups and not ounces, but really I have been eyeballing these for sometime and have no clue to the actual amount of any of these ingredients. When I mention spent grain in these recipes I mean wet spent grain. While we make the beer and after the grain has steeped, the grain sits in a grain bag in a bowl. I then grab a few cups off the top and keep it in the fridge/freezer for breadmaking. I encourage those of you who make spent grain bread to post recipes.

  1. I start with a sponge– this is usually a relatively wet dough. I make it with about half a teaspoon (to a whole teaspoon) of yeast. 2 cups + of bread flour and enough ice cold water to make it start to stick together (although it still should be a bit shaggy). Leave that out for a few hours until it rises and stick it in the fridge overnight. It sounds like a strange step, but letting the yeast slowly develop the bread results in a nice complex artisan bread flavor. You can put the beer grains in at this step, but I am not sure it changes anything. Lately I have been adding around a half cup to a cup of sourdough starter to this.
  2. Put the sponge in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. I then add around a cup to a cup and a half of spent grain (as is, I dont worry about grinding it because I dont have a grinder), another 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 3 tsp of salt (i taste the finished dough, if it doesnt taste a little salty then you need more nothing is worse than undersalted bread), sometimes some oats (3/4c) or ground flax (1/4c) or both just to make it pretty. And then I add enough bread flour and ice cold water to pretty much double the volume of the sponge. And I knead it for a few minutes in the mixer– until it comes together. You want the bread dough to stick to the bottom of the mixer bowl, but the sides should be clean. Let this dough rise for an hour, fold it, let it rise for another hour (this can be skipped if it is at room temperature but I find mine is usually a bit cold.) Then shape into loaves (2 normal sized loaves, you can make a single mega loaf, but you need a big bread knife to cut it), place on a sprinkling of semolina or corn meal, and let rise for an hour. Make sure to cover the loaves otherwise they will get a skin which prevents them from rising.
  3. While your shaped loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 520. When the oven is preheated, spray the bread down with water and slice the loaf down the middle (1/2 in deep down 90% of the loaf). If you really want to impress people you can top the loaf with flax seeds or oats at this point. Then slide it into the oven (onto a pizza stone). Decrease the heat to 475. Bake for 10 minutes, spin 180 then bake for 20-25 minutes (until the inside temperature is 205-210). Put on a rack overnight.

Alternatively, if you dont need bread for a few days you can use another method.

  1. Combine 6 cups (27oz) bread flour, 3tsp salt, 1 3/4 tsp yeast, (optional 1 tbsp honey or malt syrup), 2 cups ice cold water in a mixer. Mix for 5 min on medium speed. Add 1 cup+ spent grain and knead for a another minute or two. Again the sides of the bowl should be clean but the dough should stick to the bottom. If it isnt sticky enough add more iced water a tbsp at a time, but you are going to have to knead all of that in.
  2. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Mist the top with oil, cover with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in the fridge overnight (and up to 3 days).
  3. When you plan on baking, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up and start rising (this may take a few hours). Once the dough has doubled transfer it to a floured surface. This dough is going to be sticky, if it is really sticking to you dip your hands in water and put a little flour on them. Form the dough into desired shape (I usually make two reasonable loaves of bread) degassing as little as possible, place on a sprinkling of semolina or corn meal and give an hour to rise.
  4. While dough is rising preheat the oven to 520. When the dough is ready spray with water and slice 1/2 inch deep down the middle. Slide into the oven. Lower the temp to 475 immediately and bake for 10 min. Rotate 180 then base for 10-15 more minutes. When the inside is 205 the bread is done and should be placed on a cooling rack.

If you dont have a stone you can bake the bread in an enameled dutch oven. Put the dutch oven in your oven while it preheats. Either use parchment to transfer the shaped loaf of dough into the dutch oven or throw a lightly oiled loaf in. (You probably need to bake two or three loaves from these recipes as a mega loaf may be too big for the dutch oven). Cover the dutch oven and bake. I have used this method pretty minimally, it may need some tweaking, but it does work. I am sure you could also follow stone instructions but instead bake on the back on a large, well seasoned, cast iron pan.

Other notes: If you want to crank up beer flavor you can substitute cold beer for the water. It makes a nice bread, but because of the hops I strongly suggest adding the honey or malt syrup. When choosing a beer you want a lager or perhaps a nut brown; you dont want to use something super hoppy or a stout because they will impart flavors which are way to strong for the bread (unless it is a stout and a pumpernickel bread, but that is another post). For these beers you can leave out the beer grain if you dont have any, but it just wont be the same, in fact, then it isnt even spent grain bread.

If you have problems with these recipes, let me know. I havent really measured a lot of these ingredients, but I am interested in posting real recipes on this site as well as making better spent grain bread.