Twist on Whole-Grain Bread

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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Happy Spring everyone, where Spring has sprung! We’re still waiting. Yet, Easter is less than a month away, and hopefully the Easter Bunny can pick his way amongst the snow banks. I do have a number of important items for you, as in the coming future, you will be treated to my brand new website. This one will be local to the region I live in (eastern Ontario), but maybe it will encourage some of you to visit me, online and hopefully in person. I’d love to meet you. Lots of new items “on the menu” with new classes with new experiences. Lots more photos too, and interviews with local restaurateurs, shop owners, farmers, etc. Stay tuned for further updates.

On to the bread: This is a real twist on whole grain breads, a most unusual (to me) and delicious one. You’d have to call it bread made with spent grains. Let me explain. I had another one of my food adventures again, and one never knows quite where we will end up. We had lunch in a gorgeous new restaurant in Perth, ON, which featured a locally brewed beer. Bob (the other half) was feeling a little down after a trip to the dentist, so once we got back to the car, I thought, why don’t I try and find this brewery, the Perth Brewing Co. I had sort of an idea where it was, and we were off. Naturally, we did find it without any difficulty, and upon entering, met a gentleman named Terry. He provided a number of samples of brews, which were all excellent. Of course, we had to buy some. He was also surprised to learn that I blogged for MOTHER. He then told me he used to love the magazine, fell out of sync with his subscription, and thought MOTHER had gone out of business. I was most pleased to inform him that not only are they still in business, but in something like they’re 44th year!

Baking Bread With Brewing Grains

Terry then had a little gleam in his eye, after I passed his sensory test (taste and smell, what flavours can you pick out?). I told him why: I’m a baker. Scents like caramel and vanilla are basic for me. With that, he mentioned something about spent grains, and took me in the back to get me a sample. These are grains that have been used in the brewing process, mostly barley, but he said about 20% wheat as well. I took them home, thinking, start with an oatmeal bread recipe as that is most closely allied with a quantity of whole grains going in the mix. I found a basic oatmeal bread recipe, but it no longer exists in its original form. No recipe ever does with me. I subbed in the grains for the oatmeal, did away completely with the honey, maple flavouring, and brown sugar, and put in maple syrup. Too much I thought, but it was in there. 

It kneaded quite nicely, and baked beautifully. It had a very nice crumb, light brown in colour, but fortunately, after the amount of syrup I put in there, wasn’t too sweet, go see the photo. It was just right, with the chewy grains giving a little bit of heartiness to it. The cinnamon in it was an excellent touch. All in all, I’d have to say this would be great bread for a ham sandwich or toasting. Or just plain. Butter is optional. It’s been served with soup and salad, or toasted for breakfast. It’s not heavy or dense at all. Incidentally, if you don’t have access to spent grains, go back to the oatmeal, or perhaps barley flakes. Can’t speak to the latter, as I haven’t tried that. I’ll leave that up to you.

‘Spent’ Grains Bread Recipe

So without further adieu, here is the recipe:

About 2½ cups boiling water
1 to 1 ½ cups spent grains
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant yeast (I didn’t have any, traditional worked fine.)
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
3 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour (more or less)

The method for this bread is different, but worked really well. You will need a fairly large bowl, because everything is mixed in the bowl, and the recipe makes 2 loaves at a time. Put the grains in the bowl, and add the boiling water. Add the butter, syrup, salt, and cinnamon. Stir. Let cool until nicely warm, otherwise, if you add the yeast now, it will kill it. The little beasties like warm but not too hot. 

Once cool, add your whole-wheat flour, the all purpose flour, and the yeast. Stir well. When combined, turn out onto a floured board and knead 5-7 minutes, until it comes together and is smooth. Grease another bowl twice the size of the dough, put dough in, turn to grease the dough and cover. Plastic wrap works, but in an upcoming blog, I will tell you about these great silicone covers you can buy. Voila! No more need for plastic wrap. Let rise for about an hour, until doubled. Punch down, knead briefly, divide in half, and place in 2 greased loaf pans; I used 8X4’s, but I also used some large ones, 9X5’s, and they worked well too. Let rise until the dough is above the rim of the pans, about ½ “ (for large) or 1” (for small). Bake in a 350 F oven for about 35 or 40 minutes. You can insert an instant read thermometer to test for doneness; it should be about 190 F.  (A new trick I’ve learned, very foolproof way of determining doneness.) They should be nicely browned on the top, and sound hollow when tapped. Cool a few minutes before turning out. Makes 2 loaves. 

PS: The aroma in your kitchen will be overwhelmingly fantastic!