Tuesday, April 11, 2017


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When I heard about breads made with spent grains - leftovers from beer brewing - I was fascinated.

How interesting! But, where on earth, could you come by those mashed grains, unless you worked at a brewery? We have two micro-breweries in Bar Harbor, so I left a message, asking whether I could purchase a small amount of their spent grains.

The sobering answer: the mash goes to the dogs hogs. All sold to pig farms - sorry!

So I gave up on the idea. Then, two years ago, I found a Groupon in my emails with a real bargain on a small brewing kit. A beer drinker, and always curious, I ordered it  - but then the bulky package ended up in the basement, with other rarely used kitchen equipment, like the lobster pot.

It's alive! My beer is bubbling away
The best of all husbands needs some quality solitude now and then, playing his guitar and recording his music.

Left to my devices, I unearthed beer kit and lobster pot (just the right size for the mash!), and went around in the house with a thermometer.

Our guestroom closet proved to be the ideal environment for beer fermentation: cool, but not cold. And dark. 

Looking at the packages with malted barley, I realized: here was not only the base for my first (hopefully successful) stab at brewing, but, also, finally, the source for spent grain.

I visualized us drinking my very own Pale Ale, while enjoying a loaf made with the leftovers.

Whether the beer will be drinkable or not, I don't know, yet. Its precursor is foaming, happily bubbling away, next to our winter boots in the closet.

Many of my bread concoctions are based on porridge breads à la Tartine, tweaked to meet my needs (a bit tangier) and accommodating all kinds of grain/nut/seed combinations, like the squirrel-channeling Acorn Levain.

The bread I came up with contains a good measure of spent grains along with whole wheat. It turned out to be a very pleasing, hearty loaf - this newbie brewer was delighted! Definitely a keeper.

And I still have a bag of barley mash stored in the freezer, for my next recycling adventures.

Spent grains - malted barley from beer brewing


10 g/1/2 tbsp very active starter (refreshed twice the day before)
50 g/1.5 oz bread flour
50 g/1.5 oz whole wheat
100 g/3.5 oz water (80-85ºF/26-29ºC)

Final Dough
100 g/ 3.5 oz bread flour
150 g/5.3 oz whole wheat flour
250 g/8.8 oz all-purpose flour
35 g/1.2 oz wheat germ
430 g/ 15.2 oz water
210 g/7.4 oz starter (all)
15 g/ 0.5 oz salt
250 g/8.8 oz spent grains (mash leftovers, from beer brewing)

grain flakes, cracked grains, or bran (I used barley flakes)

Float test - when a spoonful of starter rises to the surface,  it's ready to go

6:00 - 8:00 am: Mix starter. Leave for 4 - 8 hours, or until a spoonful of starter floats in water (if not, it needs to ferment longer!)

Whisk together flours and wheat germ
Dissolve starter in water

Whisk together flours and wheat germ in medium bowl. In large bowl, mix starter and 400 g/14.1 oz of the water, until starter has dissolved.

Mix the dough until all flour is hydrated

Add flour mixture to bowl with dissolved starter, and stir (Danish dough whisk or per hand) until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes at warm room temperature.

To incorporate the salt, pinch and fold the dough several times

Add salt and remaining slightly warm water, pinching and folding dough to incorporate (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain). Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Add the spent grains during the second fold

Add spent grains to the bowl. Again, with wet hands, fold and pinch dough several times (as described here for Einkorn Hazelnut Levain), until grains are mostly incorporated.

When the dough is visibly swollen, transfer it to the work bench

Continue to let dough rise for 2 1/2 hours more, stretching and folding it 5 times at 30 minute intervals. If it's not swollen (with a 20-30% increase in volume), leave it for another 30 - 60 minutes.

With an oiled bowl scraper pre-shape dough into a tight ball

Sprinkle half of the work surface with flour, leaving the other half free. Transfer dough to the floured part. Lightly flour top. Using an oiled spatula, work dough into a taut, smooth round by drawing the spatula in circles around and under the side to create surface tension.

Prepared basket (here with a grain mix)

Re-flour top, cover dough with the empty bowl, and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes. Generously flour rising basket with a 50/50 mixture of wheat and rice flours. Sprinkle a layer of grain flakes, grain chops, or bran over bottom of basket (prevents sticking and makes a nice topping).

Shaping the dough by folding it from four sides

Using oiled bench knife, flip dough around, so that the floured side is down. With floured hands, fold bottom end of dough up to a third, then fold both sides over the center to elongate.

Next, fold top down to the center, then fold the bottom up again to cover top fold, so that package is closed. Flip dough package over to the un-floured part of the counter, so that the seam is underneath.

Shaped loaf

With both (floured) hands, rotate dough ball, while pulling it towards you, so that it tightens.

Place loaf, seam-side up, in rising basket. Sprinkle with flour, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. (No warming up necessary!).

Ready to go to sleep in the fridge

Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, with a Dutch oven (with lid) on middle rack.

Place a large piece of parchment paper on the counter, and keep scissors, a sharp knife or lamé and a brush at hand. A paper sling makes the transport of the loaf into the very hot pot easy - and painless!

Preparing the loaf for the Dutch oven baking (here with Acorn Levain)

With an energetic smack of the rising basket on the counter, turn bread out onto parchment paper. Cut paper around loaf to make a sling, leaving two 2 wide handles (see photo - this prevents the paper from creating folds that would press into the loaf).

Score bread and brush off excess flour from parchment (so that you don't end up with a lot of burnt flour in the pot.)

A paper sling makes the transfer to the hot pot painless and easy

Remove hot pot from the oven, and take off lid (I recommend leaving an oven mitt on the lid to remind you it's hot). Transfer bread with the paper sling into Dutch oven. Replace lid, and put it in the oven.

Bake bread for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 450ºF/230ºC and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking for 20 - 25 minutes more, or until loaf is golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC.)

Freshly baked Brewer's Bread

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula here.