I may not have mentioned it before, but my husband brews his own beer as a hobby. One of the byproducts of the brewing process is large quantities of spent grain– wheat, barley, or other grains that have been boiled for a while and which would otherwise be thrown away afterwards. We usually end up with several pounds of the stuff for each batch of beer, and it seems like such a waste to discard it, so I went looking for recipes to make something out of it. Bread seemed the obvious choice.
It turns out there are dozens of recipes out there for spent grain bread. My husband tried one on his own but it turned out dense and crumbly– I don’t think he kneaded it enough, or maybe he added too much flour to combat the stickiness– so I tried my own version based on a recipe online.
It turned out pretty well– the grain provided a sweet, nutty flavor and a nice texture to the finished bread, though I think I could’ve kneaded it a bit more and also baked it somewhat longer– my loaf was a little crumbly when sliced and slightly gummy when eaten. But I think that this recipe is a good starting point– I just need better bread instincts!
Spent Grain Bread
3 cups spent grain (still wet is fine)
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
4-6 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 tsp. (1 packet) instant dried yeast
Milk or cream for brushing (optional)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together all ingredients except flour until well-combined. Then start adding flour a cup at a time, until you’ve incorporated 4 cups of the flour.
2. Knead with the dough hook on low speed 5-7 minutes.
3. Slowly add another cup of flour and continue kneading another 5 minutes. Your dough will still be pretty sticky.
4. Turn out dough onto a well-floured board and knead with floured hands until the dough is no longer sticky. Ideally it’ll pass the windowpane test, but even if it doesn’t get really, really thin you’re still looking for it to be pretty stretchy.
5. Transfer dough to a large, greased bowl and cover loosely with a towel. Let stand for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size. (if you used your grain straight from the brewing process– i.e., while still warm– this will take less time)
6. Punch down your dough and shape into loaves of your desired size. I made a large boule and a small half-sized baguette. I’ve also made this into twelve round rolls– they fit perfectly into a jumbo-sized muffin pan.
7. Place shaped dough onto a baking sheet with a thin layer of cornmeal underneath. Cover loosely and let rise again for another 45 minutes.
8. Using a sharp knife or razor, slash the tops of the loaves and bake at 375 degrees F. About 20 minutes into the bake, brush the crust with milk or cream for a little shine and color.
9. Continue to bake until well-risen, browned, and hollow-sounding when thumped– a total of about 40 minutes (longer if you have a bigger loaf, shorter if you’re using muffin pans to make rolls). If you have a probe thermometer, the inside of the bread is supposed to hit 190 degrees F.
As you can see, my loaf got gigantic– I could easily have divided my dough in half to make two medium-sized loaves, but at the time I didn’t realize just how much it would spread! Also I think a little less dough would’ve given me a higher-domed loaf, since the sheer mass of this one spread out a bit flat in the oven.
Note: I updated this recipe after I made it a second time (and forgot the 1/4 cup milk) and it turned out much less sticky and easier to work with. Instead of omitting the milk entirely here I’ve replaced 1/4 cup of the water with it, figuring that milk will add a bit more color and flavor to the bread. In any case, enjoy the new version that will hopefully be easier to work with!