Bread with Brewer’s Malt

I love to combine hobbies, and beer and bread are an easy match.  Now that I have a grain mill, I find myself having extra grain around the house.  So, I decided to add some malt to my sourdough sandwich bread recipe.

bread with brewer's malt

Trial the first:
My first thought was to simply replace all of the flour (except the flour already in my yeast starter) with finely crushed malt.  I knew from some previous experiments that grains will impart their characteristic flavors very strongly to bread, so I decided to go with just pale malt with a touch of biscuit malt.  I ran it through my mill twice at a gap of 30 thousandths of an inch (0.76 mm), then a medium kitchen sieve to get out some of the larger chunks and husk material.  Predictably, this didn’t do a great job of creating actual flour or keeping husk material out.  But, as can be seen below, the used portion of the grain was at least a little more fine and less full of husk than that not used.  I found I kept a bit over 60% of the original grain by weight.

milled grain

After crushing, the grain was sieved. Left: after sieve. Right: Left-over in sieve and thrown away.  Click to enlarge.

At this point, I figured the biggest problem would be getting water into the large starch clumps, normally easy with the fine flour sold for baking.  Also, I knew gluten development would be a problem: brewer’s malt is grown to be much lower in this protein, and proteins are degraded during the malting process.  And, the clumps wouldn’t help me here either.  As I was putting the ingredients together, I let the crushed malt soak in most all of the water I was going to use for the recipe for a few hours before going further.  I was hoping this would help with the water/starch problem, and develop some sugar for the yeast in a room temperature mash of sorts.

The dough was very problematic to work with, and was like grits or fine oatmeal.  It did slowly develop some limited structure during kneading, though never got much beyond “slightly less crumbly.”  After it was as good as I figured it would get, I divided it into two loaf pans and let it rise.  It did slowly for a time, then got to a point that it was so spread out and large-grained it simply wouldn’t retain any more gas.

dough with malted grain

Dough after kneading.

For this reason, it also didn’t get any of the typical oven spring, maintaining its size exactly throughout baking.  After letting it cool, I attempted to remove it from the pan, only to find it was still very moist and didn’t hold shape well enough to come out of the pan in one piece.  I suspect the water did not absorb into the starch granules as well as usual, leaving the bread more moist.  Undeterred, I took a tentative bite, only to immediately wish I hadn’t.  This bread was complete and utter crap.  Terrible.

The malt and husk flavors were simply too strong.  I tried to eat another piece to analyze a bit further what about it was so bad, but it was so bad that “bad” was the only flavor element I could pick out before I had to stop trying.  After leaving the bread out on the cooling rack for a day to remind me of my failure and shame, I noticed it was almost completely dried up.  I think this lends credence to my original theory that the starch could not absorb the water well enough, as it dried out much faster than usual.

Trial the second:
After I recovered from my previous defeat, I tried again, but heavily dialed back the malt to only 7.5% of the flour by weight60 of the 800 greplacing some of the whole wheat flour.  I also decided to run it through the mill three times instead of two, and got a bit finer of a crush and better husk separation.  The consistency of the dough was basically normal.  I baked it for the usual amount of time, let it cool, and attempted to remove it from the pan, only to again find it to be underdone (but not nearly as badly).  I’m a little surprised such a small amount of grain would have such an impact on cooking time, especially since the dough seemed of normal stiffness; I suppose an increase in cooking time is in order.

Though still a bit doughy and bland from forgetting salt in this batch, I was actually quite pleased with the flavor contribution.  There was just an accent of rich malt flavor and sweetness.  It was a bit lighter of a touch than I was looking for, but still made for a loaf with a lot of potential.  Not a slam dunk yet, but a step in the right direction.

Trial the third:
This time I added 60 g of milled grain to replace only 50 g of whole wheat flour (so I had 10 g more flour than my previous attempt).  By this time, I started milling three times and sifting twice, giving me a bit better separation of husk material than shown above.  I also subtracted 10 g of water, and added two minutes to the baking time.  The result was a pretty dry but not-too-stiff dough which was very easy to work with.  Unfortunately, it still came out slightly doughy.  It was pretty close, but not quite there- more baking time is probably required.

My thoughts on this method:
I think the milled grain absorbs about as much water as the rest of the flour per weight when its cold, but doesn’t do as good of a job as the temperature rises.  This would explain starting with a more dry dough than normal, but still ending with too much water in the loaf.  Staying with a relatively small amount of milled grain to other flour is definitely crucial, unless you have the equipment to make a properly fine flour out of your grain, in which case it might be better at absorbing water.  But even then, I would worry that the protein degradation during malting would have a negative impact on gluten development in the dough.

If I were to do this again, I would use a more flavorful malt, like a munich, honey malt, or very light caramel malt at 2.5 to 5% of flour weight or less to minimize the effect of the grain addition on dough and loaf consistency and still give a nice flavor.  I think it would be important, though, to avoid any malt that tastes burnt or bitter when chewed, even in small quantities, as this would quickly over-power the loaf.

– Dennis,
Life, Fermented

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

2 Responses to Bread with Brewer’s Malt

  1. Matt says:

    I have some spent grain flour and am going to try and make some sourdough with it. Thanks for this post! Gives me a few ideas.

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