Farmstand Friday: Spent Grain Pretzels

Farmstand Friday: Spent Grain Pretzels

I have my cousin Phillip to thank for the fact that I love beer. He’s been a home brewer for almost a decade, and along the way he’s taught me a thing or two about this tasty beverage. (It’s a little more useful than die hard references.) He’s made me in his image leaning towards Belgium ales and weird sour brews. I’m so grateful for all the lessons I learned from him, and am so happy I could combine our two passions: brewing and baking!


Over the past year Phillip has really tried to teach me the science behind brewing and we made a few batches together. From what I tasted, they were all successes! I can go on about lactic fermentation and different yeasts all thanks to him. It’s really cool that we can talk chemistry, me as a baker and him as a brewer (and biologist). Since I love to bake he gave me the idea of using the spent grain from brewing in one of my recipes…or more like kept telling me to do it until I took some spent barley from him over the holidays!

Phillip and I at the Lititz, PA Beer fest this past September.

So here you go Phillip, some Spent Grain Pretzels! Let’s get twisting!

Spent Grain Pretzels

Makes about one dozen large pretzels.

These pretzels use spent grain flour, which is the used barley leftover from beer making. If you don’t home brew I’m sure you have a friend of a friend that does and can take some of the grain off their hands. The grains I used are an English barley Phillip used to make a batch over Christmas. I dried the barley in the oven until dry but not burnt, and then stored in an airtight container. Make the flour by grinding the grain in a spice grinder (coffee grinder) until it becomes a fine flour. You can store the flour in an airtight container as well.

You can make this recipe without the spent grains, but the pretzels won’t have the malty quality from the grains. (You would just substitute with bread flour.)

What you’ll need: 1 cup spent grain flour, 5 1/2 cups strong bread flour, 1/4 cup coarse salt plus more for sprinkling, 14g active dry yeast, 2 cups warm water, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup cold butter, cooking spray, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup Belgium style ale, and grated cheddar cheese or other toppings. Also, an electric mixer with dough hook, plastic wrap, and a large surface to roll the dough on.


The dough proves in the fridge for at least 8 hours, so it should be made the night before you want to make the pretzels. Combine the flours and coarse salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Pour the warm water in a smaller bowl and mix in the yeast and brown sugar, let stand about 5 minutes until bubbles form. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub with your hands into the flour mixture like you would with a pie crust. Once you have pea pieces, use a clawing action to incorporate the yeasted water. The dough will be very sticky.

Place bowl in the mixer and mix with dough hook for 6-8 minutes on medium. The dough should be elastic and smooth. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work into a ball. Wash and lightly oil the mixing bowl and place dough ball in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Here’s a step-by-step of the classic pretzel shape.

Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large pot combine 8 cups water, baking soda, beer, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium. Coat two or three baking sheets with cooking spray.

On a large lightly floured surface, roll out the risen dough to a 14×12 inch rectangle. Slice into 12 one-inch-thick stripes. (If you want smaller pretzels, then cut each of the 12 stripes in half and roll 15 inch ropes.) Roll each piece into a 30 inch long rope using the tips of your fingers. It takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll quickly get the hand of it. (I grew up down the street from one of the oldest pretzels factories, so I’ve had some practice.) Once you have a smooth rope, form into a pretzel shape shown in the photo above.

The baking soda, beer, and brown sugar give the pretzels their signature brown crust.

Make the dough into a U shape, twist twice, pull the twisted end down, and then flip the pretzel so the front is smooth. After you do a few, you can begin to twist in the air…don’t worry if you can’t. Place 6 pretzels on a greased baking sheet to rest. When half of the pretzels are formed start to simmer them in the baking soda mixture. Using a slotted spoon submerge each piece in the pot for 30 seconds and then transfer to another baking sheet. You can reform them if the bath knocks them around.

After filling a baking sheet with the bathed pretzels, add some toppings to them. I’ve used coarse grey sea salt for half of mine and a herbed cheddar cheese for the other half. I think you can pretty much cover them with anything tasty! Be generous if you do use cheese, you really can never have too much cheese…

Any coarse salt will do instead of pretzel salt.

Place the first batch of pretzels in the top third of your preheated oven. Bake for five minutes then rotate sheet and bake for another 3-6 minutes until golden. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack. Repeat the whole process with the other half of the dough.

Yuumy golden goodness!

Serve the pretzels warm with some good mustard and of course some amazing craft beer! I’m a big fan of honey mustard and Sierra Nevada makes a very tasty Pale Ale & Honey Spice mustard that I highly recommend, but all of their mustards would be great with the spent grain pretzels. It might seem crazy to make large soft pretzels at home, but they are super fun to put together. Except for having the dough rest overnight this recipe couldn’t be easier. The next time I got to a beer fest, I’m donning a whole necklace of these!

Happy baking!

A way to a man’s heart is a good beer and an amazing pretzel, but just the beer will do!

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