Spent Grain Crackers
Food sustainability is something that is near and dear to the Forge To Table brand and goals. We believe that any chance to remove food waste from the chain is a small win that adds up to a big win over time! For Earth Day, we wanted to put out a recipe that utilized food waste in a delicious spent grain cracker!
One hobby that our CEO Noah Rosen and Northeastern Representative Sam Burgess have picked up recently is homebrewing. It is a rewarding hobby and they both love sharing recipes and discussing the finer aspects of beer. They are part of the 1.2 million homebrewers across the United States, and those numbers keep climbing as more people realize how easy it is to brew your favorite styles at home.
However, beermaking has a reputation for producing a lot of waste, one in the form of brewers’ spent grain. These are the grains that are used as a sugar source for fermentation and almost exclusively thrown away after brewing. Homebrewers only produce around 20 pounds of brewers spent grain per 5-gallon brew, but the amount of waste grows exponentially as beer production is scaled up. There were 8,275 craft breweries operating in 2019, including 2,058 microbreweries, 3,011 brewpubs, 2,966 taproom breweries, and 240 regional craft breweries, each producing tons of waste annually adding up to billions of pounds a year.
So what even is this brewers' spent grain? It starts as a combination of various malted grains, primarily malted barley, and used as a sugar source during the beginning stages of brewing. The grains are cracked open and submerged in hot (not boiling) water where the sugars are extracted, becoming young unfermented beer, known as wort. The sugars will fuel the microscopic brewing yeasts as they flourish and convert the sugar into alcohol and CO2 carbonation. When all goes well, it leaves you with a dry and crisp beer with no residual sweetness.
What is left after brewing is the wet grain husks or ‘brewers spent grain’. The grains are full of fiber, protein, and small amounts of carbohydrates and fat. They have a rich malty aroma and a slightly caramelized flavor. These fresh spent grains can be eaten straight up like oatmeal, but are especially delicious with some maple syrup, pumpkin seeds, and a sprinkle of kosher salt. It makes a great snack to push through and finish the brew day!
However, the wet grains are abundant and very perishable, so we opted to dry the grain to extend the shelf life and consolidate their volume. In an ambient 250F degree oven, we spread the wet grains onto a baking sheet and bake, flipping every 30 minutes or so, until completely dry. This process can take between 2-3 hours. Once the grain is dried, we pulsed it in a food processor until it was a flour-like consistency.
This brewers' spent grain flour has unique baking characteristics and described as having a rich, sweet, and malty flavor. Each style of beer brewed has a unique malt build, which transfers to a unique flavor profile of the brewers' spent grain flour. An IPA spent grain will have a different flavor than a porter spent grain, or an oatmeal stout spent grain. Nutritionally speaking, the flour has more protein than quinoa flour and more fiber than barley flour, per 100g consumed. From super waste to superfood!
This sustainable flour is perfect for baking sweets since it is gluten-reduced and helps create chewy cookies, flavorful brownies, and tender pie crusts. Its subtle sweetness is incredible in savory foods such as cheese-stuffed crepes, French-style baguettes, and crackers. Generally, you can substitute ¼ - ⅓ of all-purpose flour for this brewers' spent grain flour in any recipe, but feel free to experiment!
This recipe, Spent Grain Crackers, is a simple and straightforward way to start utilizing the brewers' spent grain. The cracker dough is easily formed and rolled out, and customizable with any flavor you’d like! We loved using Korean Beef Seasoning and Sunday Seasoning from our friends over at Dude’s Gourmet Seasonings, so check them out so you know what we mean. Then our 10” Sujihiki Slicer makes quick work of the baked crackers when they’re done!
There are some cutting-edge companies who have also seen the light of beer-focused food sustainability, such as fellow JWU-founded OURgrain, which focuses on education and recipes. There is NYC-based RISE Products which sells brewers spent grain flour wholesale as well as some other packaged baked goods. Then on the West coast is ReGrained, a company that started producing granola bars with the spent grains, but has expanded into snack puffs.
Earth day is all about being conscious about your impact on the planet, which includes your food choices. We try to utilize this grain in our own home kitchens, and we are hoping that you will be inspired to eat with more thought every day!
Spent Grain Crackers
For Earth Day, we wanted to share this customizable cracker featuring a sustainable food ingredient. These spent grains are a by-product of beer brewing are full of fiber and protein, with a rich malty aroma and a slight caramelized flavor. Upcycling at its finest!
Recipe by Sam Burgess
Forge To Table
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 130 minutes
Spent Grain Flour:
8 cups+ wet brewers’ spent grain
Spent Grain Crackers:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup brewers spent finely ground grain flour
1-½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup beer or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Non-stick spray, as needed (optional)
Seasoning of choice, especially our friends at Dude’s Gourmet Seasonings
(PREPARE SPENT GRAIN FLOUR) Preheat oven to 250F degrees. Spread the wet brewers spent grain on a baking sheet and into the preheated oven. Bake until completely dry, flipping the grain with a large spoon or Bench Knife every 30 minutes, about 2-3 hours. Let cool before grinding in a food processor until a fine flour texture, about 2-4 minutes.
(PREPARE DRY INGREDIENTS) Preheat oven to 325F degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all-purpose flour, ground brewers spent grain flour, and salt in a bowl.
(FORM DOUGH) Create a well in the middle, and add beer (or water) and extra virgin olive oil. Mix using a wooden spoon or hands until a shaggy dough is formed. Keep mixing until a solid dough forms, and add a little more beer, if necessary.
(FINISH DOUGH) Dust a work surface with more flour and place the dough ball onto the flour. Knead the dough until it forms a nice ball, about 5 minutes. Using our 10” Sujihiki Slicer, slice the dough ball into 6 even pieces, rolling each into a ball shape.
(ROLL OUT) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick spray (optional). Using a pasta machine or a rolling pin, dust the dough with flour and roll out to roughly ⅛” thick. Use a knife to trim off the shaggy edges of the long piece of dough before placing it on the baking sheet. Use a fork to dock the dough so it doesn’t puff while baking.
(SEASON CRACKERS) Spray the top of the crackers with a light coat of non-stick spray (optional) before topping with a seasoning mix of choice, such as Dude’s Gourmet Sunday Seasoning. Repeat this process with the remaining dough balls.
(BAKE CRACKERS) Bake the crackers in the preheated oven until crisp, about 25 to 35 minutes. Check regularly after the 25-minute mark to avoid burning. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing or breaking crackers into more bite-sized pieces. Enjoy!
The remaining brewers’ spent grain flour can be used in a variety of baked goods, such as cookies, breads, pretzels, brownies and much more! Substitute ¼ to ⅓ of all purpose flour in these recipes.
Seal the crackers in an airtight plastic container or bag and enjoy up to a week!
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