Spent Grain Sourdough
With sourdough loaves while there is little hands on time from start to finish it might take a day and a half to make a loaf of bread. Friday night I’ll feed my sourdough starter and Saturday morning I’ll make the dough. After a slow rise Saturday morning and afternoon (spent this weekend by finishing House of Cards season 3) I’ll shape it and put it in the refrigerator to rise overnight. Then late on Sunday morning I’ll bake it and spend the new few hours waiting to cut it open.
That is about how long I spent (ha!) making this spent grain loaf loaf but I had been waiting about 9 months for the opportunity. I got an email last June from a reader and fellow baker wondering if I had any insight into baking with spent beer grains. I had never made anything with them but was very curious to try. Fortunately for me I know someone who brews his own beer and was happy to share some grain (thanks Jason!). He gave me two bags of spent barley, one used to make an IPA and the other a brown ale. The result is one of the more hearty and complex loaves of bread I have baked in a while.
I don’t claim to know much, or anything really, about different types of beer. The most involved I’ve ever gotten was a ten minute portion of a biochemistry lecture my junior year when our professor explained the chemical process (I forgot the details, now I just remember it happening). I do know that the barley was roasted and boiled for an hour before it made its way to me.
The lighter one is sweeter but doesn’t have as strong an overall flavor. The darker barley smells like bitter coffee and chocolate and is very strong. I decided to add some of the still wet grain to the dough and dry a portion to use on the crust for texture. It took about 2 hours at 200F in the oven to completely dry the grain. I then put the dry grain in our food processor for about 90 seconds to grind it into a coarse flour. I would have used my flour mill but I was still a little paranoid about not getting all the moisture out.
I really liked the contrasting flavors of each type of grain in this loaf and if you can get them recommend using a few different types at once. I recommend toasting the bread because at room temperature the bitterness of the dark grain can be a bit too much. An incredible transformation takes place when you warm it and the flavors soften a bit and add an even more incredible smell to the loaf. If you make your own beer or can get some spent grain, I encourage you to give this a try!
- 2⅓ C bread flour (300 g, 60%)
- 1½ C whole wheat flour (200 g, 40%
- 1¾ C water (410 g, 82%)
- 1 C active sourdough leaven (100 g, 20%)
- 1½ C wet spent grain (200 g, 40%)
- 2 tsp salt (12.5 g, 2.5%)
- Optional as desired– dry spent grain
- The night before (or at least 7-8 hours) you make your dough combine 2 tablespoons (15-20 grams) of unfed sourdough starter with 60 g of water, 30 g of all purpose flour, and 30 g of whole wheat flour.
- Stir until there are no dry bits of flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit out overnight. This will be your active leaven the next morning. A drop of the starter will float in water when it is ready.
- When ready, disperse the leaven starter in 400 g of water in a large bowl. Add all flour and mix by hand until there are no dry bits. Knead for 1-2 minutes until well combined. Cover and let rest for one hour.
- After the hour is up add salt and remaining 10 g of water. Mix well and cover the dough again.
- For the next two hours ‘turn’ the dough every 30 minutes. This means grabbing the underside of the dough, and stretching it up and over the rest of the dough. Perform a few of these turns each time you handle the dough.
- After the first turn work in the wet spent grain. After two hours is up, let the dough rest for another hour before you turn it again.
- After the third hour, let the dough rest another 30 minutes. Then turn it out onto an unfloured surface. Flour the top of the dough and flip it over. Work into a round shape and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Following the bench rest flour the top of the dough again, flipping it over after so the flour side is face down. Fold the third of the dough closest to you inward, and then stretch the dough out to the sides. Fold the right, and then left, sides in toward the center. Fold the top of the dough inward, and then wrap the bottom part of the dough over it all.
- Work this into a round shape, and place seam side up in a proofing basket lined well with flour. If desired cover with dry spent grain before placing in proofing basket.
- Let rise for 3-4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). One hour before baking place a dutch oven, with the lid on, in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.
- Once hot, drop the dough into the pan and score the loaf. Immediately place the top back on and return to the oven. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees and cook for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes remove the top of the dutch oven and rotate the pan. Continue to bake the bread for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is deeply browned.