Baking spent grain bread

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I’m a bit uncomfortable about waste. Not particularly on account of economic necessity, but because when I think about all the time and effort that’s gone into growing something, manufacturing it, or even raising and killing it, some instinct rebels at just throwing it away if it can still be useful.

There are limits, of course, but the kitchen in particular is somewhere you can have a lot of fun trying to use stuff up, and quite possibly making some happy discoveries along the way. Leftovers and eating-up meals can be some of the tastiest; stock you make yourself is infinitely nicer than just crumbling a tablet into hot water, and cooking with rendered animal fat is probably not going to give you the longevity of a chuckling Italian pensioner raised on extra virgin olive oil, but it is glorious.

So last week, after getting some beer on to brew, I was left with a big soggy bag of spent malt. A lot of the flavour was leeched out by mashing and sparging, but it still smelled good, and when all’s said and done, it’s just barley. So I wondered if one could maybe bake it into bread.

Turns out I am inevitably not the first person to consider this. There were a few recipes online, and it looks like the enterprising Brooklyn brewery even sells its own spent grain flour. General consensus seems to be not to use a ratio of more than 20% spent grain to bread flour, and to try and guesstimate the volume of water if you’re using the grains wet. I’ve tried it a few times now, and the bread is delicious, full of flavour and especially good as hot, buttered toast with Bovril on.

However, all the recipes I found were either reasonably complicated or in American money (cups and such), so I thought it was worth posting a really simple one that works, adapted with a little trial and error. I’m not an expert baker, so I’m sure it can be improved much further if you’ve got the experience and fancy tinkering with it.

It’s better and more reliable if you use the malt dry, and it’s not a lot of hassle to dry it out. Just spread it reasonably thinly on baking trays and stick one in the oven when you’re cooking your tea, shaking it a bit now and again to surface the damper grain from the bottom. Within a few days you’ll have it all dried out, then you can grind it roughly in a food processor (you don’t have to, just makes it a bit less husky) and stick it in Ziploc bags or Tupperware.

Spent grain bread

400g strong white bread flour
100g dried spent grain (or 1 pint fresh spent grain)
320 mls warm water (or 150 mls if using wet spent grain)
1 sachet easy bake yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil

1. Stick it all in a bowl and mix it up
2. Knead it on a lightly-floured surface for about 10 minutes (could be a little harder going than normal bread)
3. Put it in a loaf tin, brush a little oil on the top and lay some cling film over it
4. Leave it to rise in a warm place for about an hour
5. Sprinkle a bit of flour on if you like, then bake it in a preheated oven at 200 for half an hour.

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