I’m a big fan of using every part of the buffalo, as it were. I try to recycle my brew water (especially in the summer months) and be as eco-friendly as possible. My spent-grain goes directly into my compost pile so that it can go right back into a garden somewhere, but sometimes it seems a shame to let microbes and other beasties get all that great grain when I could be eating it, myself. So I make bread.
It’s a lot like brewing, really. I mix up water and grain, I add yeast and patience, and in the end I come up with something awesome that I can consume.
It’s taken me quite a few tries to come up with a good recipe for bread with spent grain. Since the spent grain is so wet it’s easy to make a loaf that is cooked solid on the outside but still pretty much raw dough on the inside. It can also make a huge difference in the composition of your bread; it’s rather hearty – after all, the grain is only crushed not milled – if you add too much it can be incredibly dense and chewy. So, since I’ve gotten this down to a recipe I enjoy, I’ll share it with you.
Caveat: I tend toward artisanal free-form loaves, rather than something in some sort of fancy pan. I like my bread rustic and chewy. On the other hand, that’s really easy to make. Here’s the deal (all these photos are clickable, if you want a closer look):
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup of spent grain
1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1 tbsp bread yeast
Put all that in a bowl.
Add 1 1/4 cups of lukewarm water. Mix it. There. Bread dough. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
You know all that stuff that your grandmother does with putting yeast in a cup and letting it soak to make sure it’s going before adding it to the bread? Yes, she’s making a starter. Never thought about it that way, did you? Well don’t worry about that. Bread yeast science has gone through just as many leaps and jumps forward as beer yeast science has. Unless you’re using yeast that’s as old as your grandmother, just stick it in the bowl and mix the whole thing together. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook and it is my friend. If you don’t have one, switch arms so you don’t look like Popeye from one side.
It makes a pretty wet dough, but not so wet as to be soupy. It needs to be firm enough that you can shape it later, but not too firm or it’ll be a rock later. It’s not going to be a pretty ball of dough that you can knead. It’s a sticky mess. That’s okay. You also don’t have to knead dough to make awesome bread. Now that you’ve got that sticky lump in the bottom of your bowl, just cover it up with something breathable like a kitchen towel and leave it for a few hours.
I find that the top of my kegerator works quite well because in the meantime I also get to have a beer. You want to let the dough rise for at least 2 hours, until it’s flat on top.
That is dough that is ready for action. If, at this point, you’re having a busy day and you have something else to do, this is a good stopping point. Just throw the dough into some tupperware and throw it in the fridge. It’ll keep in there for up to a week. If you do end up refrigerating it, just take some extra time on the next step.
Preheat your oven to 425F. If you can, use a pizza stone. If you don’t have one, a cookie sheet will do, but you may want to lightly grease it and dust it with flour. If you have a broiling pan, put it in on a rack below your pizza stone (or below where you’ll put the cookie sheet). We’re going to actually steam-cook the loaf.
You want to take that sticky mess of a dough (throw some extra flour on it so it’s not as sticky) in your hands and shape it into a loaf. Keep on adding flour to the outside of it as you form it in your hands to keep it from sticking to you. You can make a big round boule, if you want. This time, I went for the oblong loaf. Go ahead and place it on a pizza peel that’s been dusted with corn meal. If you’re using a cookie sheet, throw a little corn meal on there, too, and go ahead and stick the dough on it.
You want to let the loaf rise at least as long as it takes for the oven to heat up. 20 – 30 minutes. Longer, if you’re working with cold dough. After it’s risen, use a serrated knife to cut a few slashes in the top of the loaf or maybe a scallop or an X or whatever you want and then slide it carefully into the oven onto your hot pizza stone (totally not a euphemism).
Pour about a cup of regular tap water into the broiling pan. The water will evaporate during cooking and help caramelize the outside surface of the bread. It’s the secret to a nice chewy, flavorful crust.
Let it bake for 35 – 45 minutes. The top should be golden-to-dark brown, and if you tap the loaf it should sound hollow.
Remove the bread from the oven when you deem that it is finished, but allow it to cool before cutting into it for best results. In the first few minutes after you take the bread from the oven you should be able to hear it cracking as the caramelized crust contracts. That’s how you know you’ve got the dial set to awesome.
Full admission – my sister-in-law got me a really misleadingly named book about making bread a few years ago, and I’ve been a full convert ever since – this recipe is not from there, but I made it following the theories and basic recipes from this book. It is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and I still use it pretty much constantly.
If you try this recipe out, let me know how you like it.