Bread with Steeped Specialty Grains

Bread and beer is a natural combination.  Many brewers use their spent grain in bread, but this never made much sense to me.  All of the sugar, starch, and protein- all of the nutritional value- has by this time been rinsed from the grain and into your beer.  To me, it makes more sense to rinse all of this out of the grain right into your bread.I decided to simply steep the grain instead of doing a full mash since I wanted to use some pretty dark specialty malts.  These darker malts are partially converted by the high temperature malting treatment, so as long as you don’t mind a loss in extract efficiency, you still get some sugar out of the grain without a mash.

Recipe Considerations
This might be considered part two in my baking experimentally “series.”  Knowing a bit about what each ingredient in a recipe does allows you to alter a recipe or construct your own recipes.  In this case, I am simply replacing the sugar and water with an equivalent amount of wort in my sourdough sandwich bread recipe.

My first concern was which grains to use.  I decided on some pretty strong and interesting dark malts: Special B and Chocolate Rye.

My next question was how much to use.  I normally make a two-loaf batch of bread every week, so I split the batch to test two worts at once.  Each loaf requires only 170 g (170 mL/ 5.75 fl oz) of water, but I want to end up with about 500 mL/ 16.9 fl oz to make sure I have plenty to work with.  I normally use 7.5 g of sugar per loaf, but this is considerably less than the standard amount in sandwich bread.  I decided on somewhere around three times my normal amount since I wasn’t sure how much of the extract would even be fermentable.  This translates to 22.5 g of extract in 170 g of water, or 22.5/(22.5+170)=0.117, or 11.7% sugar by weight.  This is about 11.7 degrees Plato or Brix, which is 1.049 SG.

cold steeping grains

Cold steeping and straining grains. I took a SG measurement for later recipe corrections.

The upshot is about 0.5 lb/ 0.227 kg is needed for 500 mL with the reduced extract efficiency of steeping.  I figure an additional 300 mL or so will be retained in this amount of grain, so I used 800 mL total water.

The next problem is how to measure the wort and add it to the dough.  Measuring out the standard 170 g or mL will not work because of the dissolved solids (so there will be less water in a given weight or volume).  I decided to take a gravity reading and correct for the density difference when weighing.  For example, if the measured wort is 1.050 SG or about 12.5 Plato, its about 12.5 % solids by weight.  Thus, I would need 170/(1-0.125)=194.3 g of wort to have 170 g of water.  You could make a similar correction if measuring by volume by multiplying your desired volume of water by the specific gravity (in format).

Judging by the consistency of the dough, I would say this is a bit of an overestimation, but I think the bigger issue was actually an abnormally large egg in one dough ball, as the other dough ball was much less sticky, even with the same correction for density.

Making and Baking
I put 0.5 lb/ 0.227 kg of each type of malt in a covered plastic container and added 800 g/ 27 fl oz of water to each and refrigerated for about a day and a half.  I then strained each through a mesh strainer, running the wort through the “grain bed” in the strainer a few times to get all of the particulates out.  Finally, I took a gravity reading of each to make the proper correction to measure the wort into the recipe.

The Special B wort smelled sweet, rich, and grainy, but tasted pretty bitter with a hint of sweet malt.  The chocolate rye smelled strongly of coffee grounds and tasted strongly acrid, burnt and bitter- decidedly unpleasant.  The worts had a gravity of 1.039 and 1.051, respectively, so my estimates seem to be about right.

dough with specialty malt wort

Finished dough with special B (left) and chocolate rye wort.

I added this wort in place of the water in this recipe.  The only other change I made was using 10 g of sugar per loaf (20 g total).  I decided to add this sugar as insurance, as I’m not exactly sure how much of the extract is fermentable.  This is actually more sugar than I normally use even without the addition sugar from the wort.  I meant to use only 10 g total, 5 g in each loaf, but had a bit of a brain fart.

The Special B bread turned out much the same as the wort tasted.  The main contribution seems to be a bitter burnt sugar, with a hint of toffee in the background.  It has an even golden brown color throughout the crust and crumb.  The chocolate rye bread smells like black coffee.  I’m not sure if its palate fatigue, but even though it lends what I would describe as a sharper coffee-like flavor, its surprisingly more subdued than the Special B bread, as if it is a stronger flavor added in a much lower dose.  I really enjoy the crust on this bread; both the crust and crumb are a brilliant mocha brown.

bread with specialty malt

The finished bread with chocolate rye (left) and special B.

My biggest takeaway from this little experiment is how strongly and accurately the bread took on the flavor of the wort.  In both cases the addition was far too strong for my liking, but I am actually quite pleased with this result.  This means that instead of having to use darker, and by nature more bitter malts, more subtle character and  perhaps even base malts can be used to flavor the bread.  I think a lighter crystal, Munich, or rye malt would be really good.  However, most of these lighter malts would need to be mashed, thus slightly increasing the complexity of the process.  The extra little bit of wort from the mash tun after running off for a brew would also likely work well, so long as you aren’t doing any mash hopping.

– Dennis,
Life, Fermented


About Dennis
Home brewer, home chef, garage tinkerer. Author of Life Fermented blog.

6 Responses to Bread with Steeped Specialty Grains

  1. I’d love to try this with Aromatic or Victory malt.

    • Dennis says:

      I too have been meaning to repeat this with a lighter-flavor character malt. Before I did this experiment, I assumed I would need something more pungent to taste it at all, but now I think aromatic or victory would make for a very nice flavor accent.

  2. Derik says:

    That is interesting trying to steep the grains and use them that way. I always save my spent grains to bake with. Even if the nutrients are depleted it always adds a flavor profile that is distinct to that brew. I also like to dry the spent grains and grind them into flour to bake with. After reading though, I think I may try just steeping some grains and using that for my hydration.

    • Dennis says:

      Hi Derik,
      I think this is by far the best way I have tried to get some extra malt flavor into the bread. Just make sure to use more restraint than I did when choosing grains! I suspect if you make an extra little bit of wort on brew day, you’ll get a great mix and have bread unique to each brew. And I see no reason not to keep doing what you’re doing with the spent grain and combine them to maintain the texture.
      – Dennis

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks for pointing me to this post. This weekend I should have my kitchen up and running again finally so I’m going to turn my attention back to my bread making (and then kvass making).

    • Dennis says:

      If you’re going to make kvass with it, I bet you could use a number of stronger specialty malts in the bread. It might not be particularly enjoyable as bread, but it would add a different sort of malt character to the kvass I bet…
      – Dennis

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