15 December 2007

Trebor Brot -- spent-grain bread

When homebrewing with crushed grains (and not just extract), an unavoidable byproduct is the spent grains: the crushed grains, confined to a mesh bag, are strained in hot water to create a "tea" that becomes the base for the beer, but the mesh bags are removed before the boil, and are referred to as "spent." What to do with the spent grains?
The traditional approach is to feed them to your livestock: chickens, pigs, goats, and so forth love spent grains. Barring that, they make excellent compost.
What to do when you don't have any livestock, and haven't yet begun a compost operation (living on a 2nd-storey apartment with no yard or garden makes that a wee bit difficult)?

Why, bake with them, of course! I came across an issue of Southern Brew News a few months ago (they're often free for the taking at Asheville Brewers Supply) dedicated to cooking and baking with beer, and clipped out a recipe for Trebor Brot, a traditional German spent-grain bread. I decided to give it a whirl with my Dunkel weizen leftovers. And it's quite tasty! Definitely a good, hearty winter bread, reminiscent of those 7-grain loaves that artisanal bakeries make. I'm quite proud of the result.

Here's my modified recipe:

1 C warm water
1/2 C dark beer
2 Tb oil (I used olive for this go-round)
1 1/2 ts salt
1 1/2 ts active dry yeast
4 C total flour (I used all organic unbleached all-purpose, simply because that's what I had on hand. The original calls for 2 C unbleached, 1 C rye, and 1 C whole wheat. I see experimentation here!)
a measure of dried spent grains (the original calls for 40 g; I used a bit more than that)
2-3 Tb crushed flax seed (optional)
1 Tb vital wheat gluten flour (optional -- helps give it some "lift")

The easiest (read: quickest!) way to dry the spent grains is to spread them in a thin layer on a large plate and microwave for 6 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

In a large bowl, mix 2 C flour, yeast, and the salt. Add the water/beer and oil, and beat (it will be VERY sticky -- if you're a hand-kneader like me, plastic/silicone or wooden spatulas are a big help here!). Add a cup of flour a time, kneading for 5 minutes after each flour addition. Add the gluten, flax, and spent grains along with the final cup of flour. Depending on the enviroment, you may need to add a bit more flour so it's not too sticky. Knead until the dough is a shaggy mass -- one thing I've learned is that you really can't over-knead, especially when kneading by hand.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled or floured bowl, and tightly cover with a warm, damp (thin) towel. Let the bread rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

After rising, place dough on a pizza stone, form into the desired loaf shape (I like the round boule), cut the top with a sharp knife if you wish. No secondary rising is really needed with this one. Bake it at the bottom of the oven for 45-50 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of baking, lightly spray the loaf with water (this helps give the crust a golden color). Once desired color is achieved, remove and place on a wire rack to cool. Is it done yet? Knock the bottom of the loaf with your hand -- if it sounds hollow, it's baked.

Let cool for at least 15 mintues before slicing. Enjoy with a glass of beer!

--Thanks to Fred Scheer-Boscos of the Nashville Brewing Co. for this recipe.

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