Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spent-Grain Hardtack

A week or two ago, Martha started a porter that calls for several types of dark malt together with a peat-smoked malt. All this malt went to good use, being boiled in the wort. After the boil, though, it seemed a shame to just compost the wet grains.

In Amherst, Wisconsin, we once had a spent-grain bread made from spent-malt leftovers from Central Waters beermaking. In that bread I believe the malt was milled by some means. The spent grains at the point when they emerge from the wort are not only toasted but also boiled, however -- so are easily chewed even when left whole.

I dumped the spent grain in a bowl, poured on a couple scoops of sourdough starter, then added enough flour to make a dough. Since the quantity of spent malt was greater than that of flour, I anticipated trouble in the kneading. After working it a while, though, the dough did begin to behave in a doughlike way, even though its texture was heavy. Because of that heaviness I decided to spread it out on a cookie sheet that has a raised edge, then left it to rise for four or five hours before baking.

Truthfully I had no idea if the results would be palatable. They did turn out unusual. Visually, I had a pan of brownies. Chocolate, in fact, would have gone well with the burnt taste of the dark malt. It was chewy and oddly nice-flavored, and made a pleasant accompaniment to a beer or a whisky. And it was substantial. We nibbled it tentatively, and over the course of days found ourselves eating it readily. It made perfect road-trip food: compact, not crumbly, and sustaining.

That I put in no chocolate is fortunate, actually, since Lorna has a great liking for the crusty, chewy-crunchy stuff -- especially with a bit of cheese or peanut butter.

Cheers ...


  1. Actually, the grains are not boiled in the wort but put in the water when it is heating and are not heated above 170 degrees F. They ended up being in the water for about 20 minutes and turned it into a nice dark malty tea before the addition of the malt syrup and hops.

  2. It does sound a bit sacrilegious NOT to have put chocolate in it...could have done two batches, one for dogdom, one for chocoholicdom.

  3. So what's the equivalent of "after the boil"?
    Maybe "after the worting" -- ? Or "after the delicate heating to pull forth the umbraceous essence of the never-quite-to-be-boiled malts" -- ?