When I was a kid, maybe 11, I spent an entire summer listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Every single day. In my room, in the backyard on a Walkman, at the beach on a Walkman, in the car, etc. For whatever reason that album just did it for me that summer. Because of that, it’s always a “summer album” to me; whenever I hear it I think of summertime. Or at least, that summer. Even when I saw Fleetwood Mac live a few years ago, every song from that album just made me think of summer.
So it’s only natural that when I sat down & started typing about grains as the summer is waning, I somehow inserted the word into a Fleetwood Mac song.
“Graiiiiiin, keep us together… Run in the shadows… Graiiiiin, keep us together…”
Ahem. Anyway, yes, today I’m going to be talking about grains. Specifically the kind left after you make beer, called “spent grains,” which are pictured above.
Back a few months ago, Pete, (a friend of ours for ages- however he’s been Jay’s friend way longer than mine, admittedly), messaged me on Facebook & offered me some of his spent brewing grain to bake with. He’s a home brewer & makes a variety of beer, as well as a new business owner. He has a business in Baldwin, NY called Homebrews & Handgrenades where he sells all kinds of grains for home brewers like himself. Turns out, this grain is largely wasted after the brewing process, because it’s served it’s beer-making purpose. But it’s still perfectly good grain. Yes, some people do bake with it. And others use it as animal feed or as fertilizer. But I’m willing to bet a large portion of it is just a waste.
Brewer’s spent grain (also called spent grain, brewer’s grain or draff) consists of the residue of malt and grain which remains in the mash-kettle after the mashing and lautering process. It consists primarily of grain husks, pericarp, and fragments of endosperm. As it mainly consists of carbohydrates and proteins, and is readily consumed by animals, spent grain is used in animal feed. Spent grains can also be used as fertilizer, whole grains in bread, as well as in the production of biogas. Spent grain is also an ideal medium for growing mushrooms, such as shiitake, and already some breweries are either growing their own mushrooms or supplying spent grain to mushroom farms. This, in turn, makes the grain more digestible by livestock. Spent grains can be used in the production of red bricks, to improve the open porosity and reduce thermal conductivity of the ceramic mass.
Beer-making is actually a fascinating thing, one I’d like to learn more about eventually.
Anyway it sounded like an awesome opportunity for me to try something new, so I of course said yes. And I promptly ended up with around 10 lbs. of frozen spent brewing grain in my possession. After defrosting it overnight, I put it into different containers & jars so it would be easier to store.
The grain can go bad very quickly so it has to be stored in the fridge or freezer. If you’re using it right away, the fridge is fine. But the freezer is best for longer-term storage. Thankfully, Ball® jars are freezer safe! I stashed a bunch of the grain in the freezer & kept a jar in the fridge to mess around with the next day or so.
August isn’t typically bread-making season, being that it’s usually hotter than a mothereffinshutchomouth. But luckily this August has been relatively cool; we haven’t had a day over 90° F the entire month. It’s almost gotten there- high 80°’s, very humid. But it never quite reached that 90° mark. So since I lucked out weather wise & I knew this stuff would be great in bread, I had to do it. Not to mention the fact that September is literally just days away. And September means fall is coming, which means even cooler days (eventually) & more hearty bread making.
So I decided to ease into it with just that. And something really easy: a no-knead, quick yeast bread. Spent grain bread!
Kinda like a multi-grain bread, it can be both savory & sweet. Excellent when used as a grilled cheese bread, amazing with goat cheese or salted butter, but also great with jam. It requires no real “rising time”; just a 15 minute quick rise/rest after microwaving it. It doesn’t require any kneading, but a quick spin in the stand mixer. When I say “done in a half-hour” I mean the prep time… the baking is another 40 minutes.
But it’s worth it!
And it’s relatively easy. You could even do the quick kneading by hand instead of the mixer, if you don’t have one, and do the grinding of the grains with a wooden spoon in a bowl. The balsamic vinegar mimics the taste of a longer-rising bread, and the grains & oats bump up the flavor & texture.
Mortaring & pestling away…
SPENT BREWING GRAIN NO-KNEAD QUICK BREAD (adapted from The Kitchn)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (two packets)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup spent brewing grain (doesn’t have to be dried)
- 1/4 cup steel cut oats
- 1/4 cup oat bran
- In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer put the yeast, sugar, 3/4 cup brewing grains and water. Let it sit.
- Get out your flour, salt, vinegar, spray oil, and anything else you need.
- Now that the yeast has had a few minutes to bubble up, add 3 cups of the flour as well as the salt and vinegar and beat for several minutes with the paddle. Add the last 1/2 cup of flour and switch to the dough hook and beat for seven minutes. Alternately, knead vigorously for five minutes, or until the dough becomes extremely elastic. This will still be a wet dough, but not goopy. The dough will clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom.
- Lightly grease a microwave-safe bowl with vegetable oil and transfer the bread dough to it, rolling it in the oil. Cover the bowl with a very wet towel. Cover the whole thing with a dry towel and put in the microwave. Microwave on HIGH for 25 seconds.
- Let rest in the microwave for about five minutes.
- Microwave on HIGH for another 25 seconds, then remove. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Put a Dutch/French oven (or one of these alternatives) in to warm as the oven heats.
- Let the bread rest and rise for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, take the other 1/4 cup brewing grains and combine them with 1/4 cup steel cut oats & 1/4 cup oat bran in a mortar & pestle. Grind slightly.
- Shape into a ball and plop into the preheated pan. Quickly slash the top with a knife & sprinkle with the oats & grain mixture, patting it on so it sticks. Cover with the lid and bake for about 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the internal temperature hits 210° F.
The grains give the bread more heartiness, a nuttiness, and a slight chew. Not to mention a bit of a crunch. Not a full-on crunch, but it adds a great texture to the bread. It’s really good! For added sweetness, you could also throw in some dried fruits- cherries, cranberries, etc. Add a bit more sugar or add some whole wheat flour. Totally customizable. And if you have more time, try using this method with this other no-knead bread recipe: soak the spent grains in the warm 1 1/2 cups water for 20 minutes before mixing your dough.
Next time, I’ll incorporate the grains in a more central way. I’ll grind them into a flour, probably, with my new grain mill. Or I’ll toast them & then grind them.
But until then, I’ll just eat this bread with a little butter, drink some ale & listen to some Fleetwood Mac.
Thanks again, Pete! As soon as I work my way through the remaining… oh, 8 lbs. of grain… I’ll pick up some more! Haha.