After brewing an Imperial IPA over the weekend my son saved the spent grain, and passed some of it along to me. I used 2 cups of it in 2 loaves of bread, and stored the rest in my freezer. Not only is this a terrific use of something that ordinarily ends up in the compost, it is one of the best ingredients you can add to bread. This loaf has a moist, chewy crumb, and a nicely textured crust flecked with bits of malted barley.
Malted barley is grain that has been allowed to sprout and is then dried. The process of germination converts starch into diastase enzymes and simple sugars. This is the food upon which yeast thrive. Professional bakeshops add diastatic malt powder to promote a strong rise, a brown crust, and loaf expansion.
You may be saying to yourself, “But I don’t brew beer, where am I going to find spent grain?” If one of your friends isn’t a brewer you should ask at your favorite brewpub. Surely, they won’t say “no” to their best customer, or inquire at that micro brewery where you get your growlers refilled. Chances are you will be able to find a steady supply.
1 pkt yeast
1½ cups tepid water (100-110°)
2 cups spent grain, ground in food processor
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
Add to the sponge
5 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 Tbsp salt
¾ cup tepid water
Put the spent grain in the bowl of a food processor and run until it is reduced to small pieces.
In a medium size bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the spent grain and the wholewheat flour. Stir this mixture together, cover, and leave at room temperature overnight (12-18 hours).
The next day it will have the tangy aroma of sour dough. It will have separated into three distinct layers: a raft of flour and grain on the surface, a layer of liquid, and a white pasty layer at bottom of the bowl. Use a rubber spatula to stir this together.
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a mixer (or add to the starter if you want to do this by hand). Add the starter, and ¾ cup of tepid water. Combine into dough of medium consistency, add a little water or flour as necessary. Due to the variables involved, such as the moisture content of the spent grain, the type of flour you used, and humidity you will have to do this part by feel.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Cover and let it at least double in volume. You won’t have to wait long. Yeast love malted barley.
Preheat oven to 400°
Cut the dough into 2 pieces.
Dust a countertop lightly with flour. Pat each piece of dough into a rectangle, and then fold the long edges about 2 inches toward the center.
Roll this up like a jellyroll and place on a greased baking sheet. The folding of the edges in will create shoulders on the loaf, thereby providing a more consistent shape for your sliced bread.
Cover and let rise until doubled in volume. 5 minutes before you put it in the oven, slash the top with a sharp knife or razor blade to provide a controlled expansion during baking.
Bake on the center shelf of your oven for 40 minutes. Turn the loaves onto a wire cooling rack and cool to room temperature before slicing. If you can’t wait, let it rest for a few minutes, slice and slather with butter, and turn the loaf onto its cut edge so it doesn’t dry out.