Real Fermenting: Spent Grain Bread

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Spent Grain Bread

Really excited to share this recipe with you, because my home is filled with the delightful aroma of fresh bread right now. And what's better is it's recycled grain from the Robust Porter I just made. This bread used a sponge method, wherein part of the dough is prefermented for 24 hours or so.

Must. Resist. Slicing. Bread

So this bread was inspired by this video of Peter Reinhart talking about bread. I strongly encourage you to watch it. Inspirational stuff. As he says, this recipe can be made with any kind of "spent grain", like leftover quinoa or wild rice. Mine is slightly simpler than his, because I don't use an enzyme-action "mash" of just water and flour. But maybe next time.

The Sponge

The first stage is to make the sponge. Combine the following ingredients in a bowl.

1/2 tsp regular bread yeast
3/4 cup water (room temperature)
3/4 cup spent grain from brewing, still damp and at room temperature
1 1/2 cup bread flour

These will make a fairly wet dough. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave it 24 hours (or atleast 8 hours). When the time is up, you should have something that looks like this:
The ripe sponge
For 24 hours, the yeast has converted sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol, and many bacteria have been busy making acids. The sponge is pulsating with flavor!

The Dough

Now we combine the sponge with more flour, a little extra water (remember, we already have a too-wet dough), and some honey.

mature sponge
4 cups bread flour
1 cup water (room temperature)
2 tbsp honey

For this stage, I used my Stand Mixer, but could easily knead it by hand. I just had a lot of posts to write up, so I was multitasking today. Using the dough hook, I mixed these ingredients for 10 minutes.

Before mixing
After 10 minutes, it is time to add the salt. Mix for a further 5 minutes to ensure the salt is evenly distributed.

2 tsp salt

You may need to adjust the flour a little if your dough is too sticky. Add 1 tbsp at a time if your dough it still sticking to the sides after you have added the salt.

Pick the dough up and form it into a ball. Rub about 1 tbsp of oil over it, and put it into a bowl, covered. Now we prove the dough.
The final dough, proving

The Proof

As a highly-trained linguist, I can appreciate this stage of bread-making. Today, proof means something like "conclusive evidence". With that meaning in mind, the proverb the proof of the pudding is in the eating does not make a lot of sense. However, proof has another, older meaning - "test". At this stage of making the bread, we test the yeast by having it raise the bread.

Leave the dough in a warm place for about 4 hours. In that time it will triple in size, if your yeast is good (obviously we already know it is from the sponge stage).

Knockback and Shaping

After 4 hours, dump the dough out of the bowl onto a floured board or countertop. It'll probably sink pretty fast once it hits the surface, but punch it a few times to make sure. This is knocking back the dough. We get rid of all the large, ethereal air bubbles. Quickly shape the dough. I just made a simple round, but you could put it into 3 9x5 loaf tins or whatever you want. Now we leave the dough to rise back for 45 minutes.

After rising back, the dough is ready to be baked


The second best part (after eating) is baking the bread. Preheat your oven to 450F. You want one shelf at the top with enough room for your bread and a bit of headspace, and another shelf below for a roasting tin or other heavy metal pan. I used my cast iron skillet. Preheat the pan too.

When you are ready to put the bread in the oven, slide the bread in carefully and then pour about 2 cups of boiling water into the hot pan below it. Careful! It will make a lot of steam. Close the oven door quickly but smoothly. Now you've trapped a lot of steam in the oven, which helps retain the heat. You don't have to worry about this if you have a wood-fired clay pizza oven, but most of us don't so we do what we can.

If using the round shape loaf:
Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, rotate the loaf 180 degrees, reduce the oven temperature to 350F and bake for a further 30 minutes.

If using loaf tins:
Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the tins 180 degress and bake for a further 5-10 minutes.

In either case, you want a nice dark golden brown all over the loaf. The bottom should sound hollow when you tap it. When the bread is out of the oven, leave it to cool for at least an hour! I know, it is so tempting right now to cut into that hot loaf. But it is still cooking in there, so just leave it on a rack to cool.

Serve it however you want, but this bread will be lucky to survive two days in my house.

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