Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't Try This at Home... Hops Muffins?


I like to experiment.  Tinker.  Poke and prod at the little things in life.  Sometimes I do some research before I tinker.  Sometimes I at least take time to ponder what might happen before I dive in to a new project.  Sometimes I do neither of those.  With mixed but always interesting results.

I enjoy brewing, and I enjoy cooking.  One day, I happened to be doing both activities on the same day.  I was bottling my first big batch of Irish Stout, and I had some nice soup-and-bread dinner plans for later.  After bottling the beer, I was left with a good, solid base of yeast trub at the bottom of my fermenter.  The trub is a pale brown creamy substance made of the solids that fall out of suspension in a fermenting batch of beer (or wine, or cider.)  Most of this is yeast cells, living and dead.  Trub (if proper sanitary measures are taken) can be added to a fresh batch of beer to get fermentation started quickly, and without having to buy another pack of yeast!  I wasn't going to be brewing any more beer that day, but I was going to be making some bread.

Hmmm... Stout bread!  What could go wrong!?  Turns out I forgot about something else that hangs out in the yeasty trub.  More on that later.  First, the method!

Scooping yeast trub from the fermenter
Scoop that Trub!
I had to get the trub out of the fermenter and into my dough.  I cleaned and sanitized my soup ladle and scooped out  some of that rich yeastiness.  I also got some of the stout which I had intentionally left in the fermenter because of excessive trub-iness.  I thought it would be great!

I added some warm water to my flour, yeast, salt, oil, and trub mix to make a thick dough.  I kneaded the dough just like I would any other bread.

Kneading the stout trub bread dough

Finished kneading the stout trub bread dough
Finished Kneading
I kneaded the bread to a smooth elastic ball and set it to rise.  Rise it did!  Just like using the pack of bread yeast.  "AHA!  It rose!  So much for buying bread yeast!"  I thought, triumphantly.  

Punching down the stout trub bread dough
Punching Down the Dough
It rose and I punched it down to shape for baking, just as I always do.  When I need bread fast, I will make rolls or "bread muffins" as we call them because I cheat with muffin cups to shape the rolls.  I shaped this malty-smelling dough into nice rolls and set it to bake.  They came out of the oven dark brown and beautiful.

Stout trub rolls finished baking
Stout Rolls!
All that was left was to butter one up and try it!  I couldn't wait.  They cooled, while I got my butter and knife ready.  I pulled one apart to study the nice dark crumb and roasted malt smell of the bread.  hmmmmm....  I buttered one up and tasted...

"WHOA HOLY BITTER!!  Yikes!  What is that!?"  I could taste the nice stouty malty taste, and the general deliciousness of fresh-baked bread in any form- but there was a gnarly bitter aftertaste just behind it.  "The hops!  Oh no!"

Indeed, I had forgotten what else lurks in trub- hops.  This batch included some dry leaf hops to boil for beer bitterness.  After boiling fresh hops, I strained the liquid into the fermenter, but a good bit of tiny hop particles traveled with it into the fermenter.  Usually no problem in the beer, because those solids fall out of suspension into... the trub.  I had a nice clear stout on top of a bitter hop bomb.  The rolls were close to unpalatable.

We tried some with our soup, but even the pleasant (whew!) soup could not dull the bitter hoppy kick of those rolls.  I didn't mind wasting the materials, it was really just a cup of flour, but it was a cryin' shame not to have homemade bread to go with soup that night.

If (and that's a big if!) I try this again, I'll do some research about measuring trub.  I did put in a good bit to this dough, thinking it harmless.  It probably would have risen with much less.  At the end of the day, I can always say about these experiments-

"As long as no one got hurt, it was worth a shot."

But don't try this one at home, kiddies.

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