Monday, September 17, 2012

Spent Grain Bread and Why My Wife Reminds Me of a Monkey

I try as best I can to be one of those “Waste not want not” people.  I’m not always as successful as I can be but I’ll go out of my way to recycle, cook lots of sustainable foods (read beans and rice) and be an all around nice guy (most of the time).  I also believe in using as much of an animal which gave it's life for my eatin' pleasure.  From the rooter to the tooter as they say in the South.  

So when I was helping a friend  make some home-brewed beer a few months back it broke my heart to see him toss all his cooked grains in the trash.  For you non-beer makin' folk because all of this grain has been cooked to extract all of it's flavor and sugars which the yeast will feast on to make alcohol the grain is considered spent, thus the name, spent grain.  Anywho, I’ve been trying to find ways to utilize this byproduct of beer making, so far I hope to put together a muesli recipe and maybe some granola bars, but until such time I decided to make bread.  I got these grains from my buddy (@guambrewer) who I believe got them from another mutual friend who has used them possibly in a Red Ale but I wouldn't swear to it.  

This is a pretty basic recipe and while the overall time required was a bit on the longish side it doesn’t take a whole lot of special ingredients or skill.  Heck, if I can do it, you’re likely to be twice as successful.  After a quick search across that there world wide web thingy I came across a recipe I liked over at the Michigan Beer Blog that I thought would fit the bill nicely.  

Here’s my version and it only differs slightly:

Spent Grain Bread

1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup room temp water
3/4 c spent grain
6.75 oz (by weight) bread flour.  If you gotta use volume the original was 1.5 cups

18 oz (1 lb 2 oz) bread flour.  Original volume was 4 cups
1 cup room temp water
2 Tbl honey
2 tsp salt
2 Tbl butter, melted, optional 

First off, start this bread early or make sure you have time the next day which was my fail point #1.  I started at about noonish and would have been a lot better off if I’d started closer to 9 or 10 in the AM.  Anyway, mix together all the ingredients for the sponge.  The original recipe called for 1/2 tsp yeast and a preferred 24 holding period but I didn’t have that much time on my hands so bumped it up to 1 tsp.  If you’re using one of the packets from the grocery store use about half ‘cuz they're 2 1/4 tsp.  Cover with a damp towel and set aside for at least 5 hrs.  

Here's my sponge ingredients....

  Here’s what my sponge looked like after mixing....

After letting this stuff sit at room temp (about 82 degrees this afternoon) man oh Manischewitz did this stuff smell AWESOME!!!!  My wife (who I might add has the taste buds of a proboscis monkey... and no, her nose is not normally that big but she took offense at the first animal that came to mind so this is the second animal that came into my pea-esque brain) just thought it smelled like bread.  However, because I had the trained palate of a gourmand it smelled yeasty, beery, fermenty and funky in all the right ways.  (and yes, before you ask, those are officially acceptable taste test descriptors and if you don't believe me look it up in Wikipedia, that place is full of truth-like statements)

(not actual picture of my wife)

Here are the ingredients in the mixer bowl...

Not as wet as the pictures from Michigan Beer Blog but once you get this far in there is no going back and I was gonna get my dough on!  I dumped all of the sponge and all of the dough ingredients (EXCEPT THE SALT) in the bowl of my trusty Kitchen Aid, tossed the dough hook into place and set it on low for 12 minutes.  If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid good luck cuz this next part is gonna suuuuuuuck.  A lot!  12 minutes in a Kitchen Aid is about 20 min or so in real life time so knead away son, knead away...

At first everything was a shaggy messy mess but after about two minutes to the dot everything just came together.  Yeah me!   

While the suckers, ahem non-Kitchen Aid owners, would be kneadlessly killing themselves (yes, that was supposed to be a pun) I had a beer.  A nice cold frosty beer hit the spot on this hot day as I just stared at the mixer working it’s little heart out.  No seriously, the mixer got so hot I thought it was going into cardiac arrest but it pulled through.  A couple two or three times I stopped the mixer and re-distributed the dough.  I don’t know if it really made a difference but I felt that it made me more part of the process.  After the 12 minutes in the mixer had elapsed I tossed in the salt, redistributed the dough again and let it go for another 3 min.  

I pulled the dough out, gave it a couple spins by hand (once again so that I could feel like I had something to do with the whole makin’ bread thing) and tossed it into a greased bowl which I again topped with a damp towel.  Now walk away.  Do not, I say, do not touch the bread for at least two hours or as long as it takes for the dough to double in size.  A good rule of thumb (or finger in this case) is to lightly poke the dough with your finger.  If it leaves an indent you’re normally good to go, if it puffs back up your dough likely needs more time.  Heck, if you're a proboscis monkey and you're reading this and thinking about making this bread you could probably just press your nose in and get the same effect.  

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two pieces.  I took piece numero uno and tossed it in a ziploc bag and into the freezer to be used at another time.  Dough number two was pressed out by hand into a rectangle, then rolled up into a tight little cylinder of about 9” in length.  I then pinched along the seam to seal up my loaf and dropped it into a greased loaf pan.  

And once again it was topped with the damp towel.  About 30 minutes before go time I cranked up my oven to 450º F and put a cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf.

(yes I understand that it looks, shall we say, unseemly, but hey it's bread, what did it ever do to you except be tasty?!?!)

This time ‘round I gave it a couple hours to double in size after which time I cut some slits in the top, brushed on some melted butter and tossed it in the hot oven.  At the same time I tossed 2 cups of ice cubes into the cast iron skillet which was raging hot to produce steam during the cooking process.  What the steam does reacts with the exterior of the bread and makes a nice crusty crust.  Good stuff Maynard!   

After 15 minutes I rotated the bread and after 10 minutes more I checked its temp.  I was shooting for 210º F but was only at 195º so tossed it in for about five minutes more.  

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and admit that is one seriously ugly chub of bread.  

But being a baker of the highest order I set it aside to cool overnight.  Who am I kidding?!?  I waited impatiently for about 2 minutes, cut off a couple litlle slices for my wife and I to try.  She was duly impressed and I quote, “You should be proud, you finally baked something edible.”  And with that I ate my bread happily and vowed never to call her a probiscos monkey again.  

Over the course of that night and the next morning I consumed the better part of 2/3 of the loaf.  I ate it plain with butter, toasted with butter, butter with plain salt, I made a cheese sandwich with dijon mustard and cheddar and lastly plain butter and truffle salt which made me do the happy dance (see below).  Everything, and I mean everything, tastes better with truffle salt. 

Notes for next run:

I think I’m going to skip the ice during the baking.  I really liked the chewy crust but feel that it could get in the way of a good sandwich.  That said I might have to drop the temp a bit to allow for a longer cooking time with a little foil tent near the end as a prophylactic against over-caramelization (read - I don't want my bread to burn until I make it into toast)

Second, I’m going to add some herbs like rosemary and/or thyme to the mix, I think it’ll fit really well.  

Next, I really liked the bread but it came out kinda flat so for the next run I’m going to use all the dough in a single loaf for sandwich bread.  

And lastly I’d like to sub about 1 or two cups of the bread flour for whole-wheat flour just for shits and giggles.  


April Bright said...

I am going to try this. Thanks for the recipe and the courage to go for it!

Anonymous said...

If you still want to do the chewy crust thing without doing the ice in a cast-iron, just stick the bread in the oven and spray it a few times with a spray-bottle filled with water. After 5 minutes, open the oven and spray a few more times. You should get the same crustiness without the cast-iron.

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