2011-12-08

Whole Wheat Sourdough with Spent Brewer's Grains

At our December 4th "Taste-and-Tell" with the Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers, we handed out freshly spent brewer's grains for our bakers to bake into bread. The spent grains were donated to us by a local microbrewery. "Spent" is a bit of a misnomer, as these grains are full of natural sweetness, beneficial enzymes, fiber, and texture. They can taste wonderfully nutty when baked into bread (or so we've read, having never baked with them, ourselves). This particular batch of grains contained 3 different types of barley: "Pale Ale malt," Aromatic Malt," and "Caramel Malt."

The brewer educated us a bit in how these spent grains came to be. The grains, including their husks, are crushed and then soaked in water, until some of the sugar in the grain dissolves. This sugary water is drained off and reserved. (The husks facilitate the draining of the water. Without them, the grain would become a gooey mass from which the liquid would need to be squeezed--not a pleasant chore.) The water is then heated to kill off whatever yeast and bacteria it may contain, to create an auspicious environment for the introduction of brewer's yeast. The remaining "spent" grains are damp, and may be composted, fed to livestock, or (lucky us!) baked into multi-grain bread. 

Here is our loaf, just out of the oven this evening:


It was a team effort: Husband came up with the bread's formula, then got the starter started. I finished mixing the dough, and kneaded, folded, shaped, proofed, and baked the loaf.

We were surprised to find, this is the tastiest bread we've ever made! (Was this a result of the spent grains, or our cooperation? Probably a bit of both!) Aromatic, slightly sweet, slightly chewy, yet light, with just the right level of saltiness. The brewer's grains seem to have disappeared into the crumb. Before the bake, we'd wondered whether the husks would disturb the flavor. Not at all.


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"Whole Wheat Sourdough with Spent Brewer's Grains"

    Starter (phase 1):

               10 %          50 g          Spent brewer's grains, damp
               20 %        100 g          Bread flour
               20 %        100 g          Water
                 1 %            5 g          Mature, stiff sourdough culture
Mix these ingredients together. Let the mixture rest at 65F/18C (i.e., room temperature in a chilly house) for 24 hours. 
    Starter (phase 2):

               10 %          50 g          Bread flour
               10 %          50 g          Water
Add these ingredients to the mixture for starter phase 1. Let it rest overnight (8 hours) at 55F/13C (the temperature of our root cellar).
    Dough:

               20 %        100 g          Bread flour
               50 %        250 g          Whole wheat flour
               35 %        175 g          Water
                 1.8 %         9 g          Salt
Add these remaining ingredients to the mixture. Gently knead until the dough comes together. The dough may seem dry, at first, but the hydration will even out as the bread is kneaded and the damp grains release some of their moisture.
Ferment the dough for 2 hours at 55F/13C (root cellar temperature), or for a shorter time in a warmer place. Every 30 minutes, fold the dough, to help develop its gluten.
Shape the dough and proof it at 65F/18C (chilly house temperature) for 3.5 hours, or for a shorter time in a warmer place. 
Bake in a covered Dutch oven at 460F/235C for 25 minutes. Uncover the Dutch oven and bake for 20 minutes more.

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This bread is so tasty, husband is in the kitchen right now starting another batch. A much bigger batch this time, so we can distribute loaves to our neighbors. 

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