By Carolyn Malcoun
I never thought much of throwing away or composting my spent brewing grain.
But the last time I brewed, it struck me that the spent grain looked almost exactly like this whole-grain hot cereal I eat in winter. I ripped open the sack and ate a spoonful. It was chewy and nutty—yum! Why was I throwing it away?
A quick Internet search brought up a simple yeasted bread recipe made with spent grain, so I baked up a batch. Wouldn’t you know, my husband declared it the best loaf of bread I had ever made. I was inspired to incorporate it into other recipes, especially since I knew that spent grain was loaded with nutrients, including protein, fiber and antioxidants called lignans.
So I started cooking. I got more spent grain from friends and one of my hometown breweries, Allagash. Through the process, I discovered two things: First, I got better results when I incorporated spent grain into a dough or batter. Sometimes, the crushed husks felt sharp in my mouth if they were “loose” in a recipe, like stirred into a soup. Second, different types of spent grains can yield markedly different results. The most interesting experiment was when I used uncrushed black patent malt to make pizza dough in the food processor. It looked like chocolate cookie dough, so I almost threw it out. But I’m glad I kept it; the finished product ended up tasting like dark pumpernickel bread—a great vehicle for tangy toppings like salami, banana peppers and olives.
So keep that grain! You’ll be surprised at how much you can do with it—and how delicious the results will be.
Working With Spent Grain: Spent grain can spoil quickly if it’s not refrigerated or frozen right away; freeze it in resealable plastic bags in one-cup portions, and defrost only what you need, when you need it. The grain should be fairly dry for cooking: Put the grain in a fine-mesh sieve and press it with the back of a spoon or spatula to remove as much water as possible before adding it to recipes.