So batch #2 of homebrew (name TBD) is underway. This time, it'll be a Dark Belgian Strong Ale, started using a kit I picked up during the jaunt up toThree Stars Brewery recently. Funny, Amanda, Jessica, Kenton, and I arrived too late for the brewing demonstration, yet with plenty of time for tasting the four beers they had on tap. But, really, what could we have learned, us semi-pros with a whole, single batch of homebrew making under our collective belts? Well, probably a lot.... One thing I could maybe show the master brewers a thing or two about is cooking with spent grain. Because I'm an expert now. At least on whole grains.
Bread and another round of some pretty darn tasty veggie burgers emerged from my kitchen
after the pumpkin ale brewing this autumn. With this darker malted grain
for the Belgian strong, brewed for the cold weather, I cranked out some pretty stellar falafel -- who doesn't love falafel?
-- on brewing day, then biscuits with scallions and parmesan using the
hearty whole grains to feed the masses. But my favorite thing so far may well
be the pretzel rolls Carina, Kenton, and I made after we racked the dark
ale into the secondary fermenter.
Check out Carina's expert racking method. (Yes, we're getting fancy here.) And here's Team Pretzel at work.
Delicious. And not just because of the generous application of sea salt. They were good and good for you!
Admittedly, the pretzels were a little more work than the other recipes, but so worth it... especially hot out of the oven and slathered with (homemade, of course) spicy mustard. I toasted the spent grain and then ground it up in my coffee
grinder the day before my sous chefs arrived. I'd gotten lots of practice during the two prior weeks, teaching five classes of 3rd graders about the parts of the grain and the importance of eating whole grains. Part of the lesson involved making whole wheat flour and white flour using coffee grinders and sifters. It was a pretty informative lesson for me as much as it was for the kiddos.
Did you know that white flour (aka all-purpose flour or even 'wheat' flour) isn't all that good for you? You know, that stuff that most of us have used -- myself included -- for baking all of our lives? I was horrified to learn during my lesson prep how little nutritional value even 'Enriched' All-Purpose Flour has in it. "You see," I explained to each group of rapt 8-year-olds, "when you eat anything made from flour, unless it says 'whole wheat,' you're only getting the endosperm part of the grain." That means you pretty much only get the carbs and miss out on the other two main parts, the really good things that whole grains have in them: the bran (where all the fiber is that helps keep your digestive system running smoothly) and the germ (where the fat-soluble vitamins hang out).
"Don't be fooled by packaging that tells you that the loaf of bread you're holding is 'wheat' bread. That just means it comes from the wheat plant. Look at the label." A number of the parent volunteers in class were as concerned as the students to learn this, but I tried to minimize the freaking out by pointing out how a good food detective can easily tell by looking for the words WHOLE WHEAT. "That means that it has to be made from the whole wheat kernel, right? And have all of the parts of the grain ground up in there, and have all of the vitamins that should be there? Otherwise, the company is breaking the law?" one astute young student asked. Exactly. And don't fall for that "Enriched" flour -- it's better than nothing, but they don't put everything back in. And it's usually bleached. (Blech.)
Now, readers, I'm not saying you should never, never, ever use all-purpose flour again or you are sentencing your friends and loved ones to a life of malnutrition and diabetes. I'm just saying you might want to try mixing WHOLE WHEAT into your baking when you can. It doesn't work for everything, but you can sift in at least some whole wheat flour into most recipes and things will turn out just fine. And if you need some ideas for ways to use whole grains -- spent or otherwise -- you know who to call. (Me.)
All spent grain recipes mentioned in this post are based on ones I found on the Brooklyn Brewery blog.