Spent Grain & Herb Whole Wheat Bread

By • December 11, 2013 • 9 Comments



Author Notes: Yes, you too can achieve bakery quality bread at home. No, you don’t need a bread machine or fancy mixer. Just your two hands, and the recipe below. At my table, a good meal is not complete without a great crusty bread that is soft and chewy on the inside. I never thought this was something that could be easily accomplished at home, but after spending a few hours with my cousin, KimNora, I learned the ease of the stretch and fold method. Since that day I’ve made fresh bread almost weekly and have riffed on her basic whole wheat recipe to include spent grain and fresh herbs, both of which add great texture and flavor. cdilaura

Makes 1 loaf

  • 305 grams unbleached bread flour
  • 213 grams whole wheat flour
  • 50 grams dried spent grain (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons (scant) rapid rise dry yeast
  • 450 milliliters room temperature filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon each of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, finely chopped (optional)
  • Cornmeal for dusting proofing basket
  • Olive oil for oiling counter
  • Flour for dusting
  1. If you want to flavor your bread {ideas: thyme-rosemary-sage, thyme-meyer lemon zest, rosemary-meyer lemon zest, raisin-walnut}, add the zest and herbs to the water and let sit for 15-20 minutes to infuse water with the flavors. Raisins are best when they are plump, not totally dry, so letting them absorb some of the water is key.
  2. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk.
  3. Create a well in the middle and slowly add half the water, stirring with a butter knife {tip: this is an easy tool to pull sticky dough from}. As the dough comes together add remaining water to the center and stir with the knife to bring in the remaining flour, working from the center outwards, so as to minimize the amount of dough that sticks to the side of the bowl. Dough should be slightly sticky, but not smooth at this point. If it is too sticky add a few pinches of bread flour.
  4. Cover the top of the dough loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 10 minutes so flour hydrates and gluten bonds form.
  5. After 10 minutes, dip hands and bread scraper in olive oil to prevent dough from sticking. Loosen dough from sides of the bowl and gently work into a smooth ball.
  6. Lightly pour olive oil on counter or marble working surface and spread with hands to oil both your hands and surface.
  7. Grab the dough with oiled hands and bring to the oiled counter to gently stretch the dough into somewhat of a rectangle shape. DO NOT pull or tear at dough — you just want to gently work it from the center to the outside to reshape.
  8. While gently stretching the dough by grabbing one end, pull it up and fold like a letter into thirds. Right side folded first, then left side over that {stretch and pull, but don’t let the dough tear}. Then take the opposite ends that were just folded and fold into thirds again — top to the center and the bottom over that, stretching and folding. In the end, you will have almost a square shape.
  9. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying out for 10 more minutes.
  10. Repeat steps 5-8 two more times, so you will have stretched and folded and let rest for a total of 3 times. After the 3rd stretch and fold, allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap.
  11. After 1 hour rise, very lightly flour the surface and remove dough from the bowl to the counter. Spread and fold a 4th time and then start to form into a smooth ball by grabbing the edges and tucking the dough under itself, turning as you smooth and round the ball.
  12. Generously add corn meal to a bread banneton {or place a clean towel in a small bowl and flour the towel}. Generously flour your hands and pick up the ball of dough, adding it to the basket or bowl, smooth side down, so your tucking seam is facing up. Gently pinch the seam to smooth the top of the dough facing up.
  13. Cover with plastic wrap and let allow for a 2nd rise for 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile make sure your rack is in the center of the oven, with no rack above it and turn on your oven to 500 ºF with a metal baking sheet, pizza stone, piece of slate or terra cotta tiles on the rack to come to temperature with the oven.
  14. After rise is complete, work quickly {so you don’t lose your heat} to dump dough from your basket onto the hot slate or pizza stone and using your sharpest knife or a bread lame, slash a fairly deep cut across the center and in any design you would like. Cutting the dough will open it up to expand upward, giving you good rise and will also look beautiful! Turn oven down to 450ºF and bake for ~30-40 minutes, taking the temperature of the bread around 30 minutes.
  15. Around 30 minutes, be sure to smell for any burning — remove immediately if necessarily. When bread has a nice dark crust, remove to the counter and while holding with one hand (use an oven mitt) check the temperature of the bread by inserting a thermometer in the bottom of the bread. If it reads 200-205º, it’s done! Add back to the oven if any less than 200.
  16. The hardest part: resist the temptation to slice into your masterpiece right away, allowing it to cool for 1-2 hours as it completes its baking process on a wire rack on the counter.
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Comments (9) Questions (0)

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5 days ago Cyndee

gosh, maybe the online conversion charts are not functioning, but this was an extremely WET dough, almost batter like at the beginning. i've added more white whole wheat flour and AP flour, let it rise for 1 hour and it is still quite wet. Need to get to the folding part here soon, but am afraid it won't all come together...

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13 days ago Coffeecat

I like this bread very much but it needs salt - it is unusual for a bread recipe not to have salt included from the start and I really missed it in the finished bread. I add 2-3 teaspoons to a double batch. I got a bucket of spent grains from a craft brewery near me and they work beautifully. I got so many, I froze some, dried a bunch and the day I got them I used a bunch wet to make the bread. The bread is particularly good with cheese, though I like it toasted as well. The folding instead of kneading method is a revelation.

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7 months ago suzi

i had the very same question and in fact thought maybe a typo here, spelt flour i thought perhaps you meant! if i want to use what i have at home, what grain would you recommend? spelt? wheatberries ground? buckwheat?

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7 months ago cdilaura

Christina is the Vice President of Commerce Operations for Provisions by Food52.

It's actually not a flour, so I would not replace with a flour -- if you do, you'll have to change the hydration ratio. Think of Spent Grain like adding seeds or herbs to add flavor and texture with the benefit of being protein-rich from the brewing process which extracts the sugars. When you use spent grain, you typically dry them out on a baking sheet and they have the consistency of light, flaky grains. See the photo in the article below. This bread recipe can be made without them and also without replacing them with something else. In fact I never added spent grains until I started brewing beer and then experimented with adding them in, so list this as optional. The result was a beautiful whole grain texture, especially nice once toasted with salty butter. I would encourage you to try the recipe without a replacement and then experimenting with adding other non-flour grains you mention to see what you like best and how it impacts your dough -- does it make it too dense, does it add flavor or texture you like, etc.

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7 months ago suzi

now i fully understand and feel confident in trying this recipe! thanks for the extra help clarifying for me. i dont like to waste anything when i cook!! although the birds would likely be thrilled...

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7 months ago Green Rider

What are spent grains?

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7 months ago cdilaura

Christina is the Vice President of Commerce Operations for Provisions by Food52.

When brewing beer you generally start with a mixture of barley and malt. After going through a multi-step process to boil those grains in water you end up extracting the natural sugars that become the base for your beer. What you're left with are protein rich "spent" grains. Instead of discarding those grains you can use them in lots of great ways. Here's an article that may help inspire you: http://food52.com/blog...

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7 months ago alienor

if i don't brew beer, how would i get spent grains. or could i sub any other grain and how to use it properly in this recipe

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7 months ago cdilaura

Christina is the Vice President of Commerce Operations for Provisions by Food52.

If you have a brewery nearby they are likely flush with spent grains and would just give them to you. They often donate to farms to feed animals as they are protein rich. They are not necessary for the recipe and you could just exclude them if you don't have access -- they don't change the proportions of the other ingredients with or without, but add a beautiful texture and flavor when included. Happy hunting!