Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recipes #11&12/20: Lentil Bread and Lentil Pate with Lentil Beer Update!

Two lentil recipes for the price of one! Huzzah! One of the recipes that I wanted to do over the course of this project was lentil bread. Bread is such an iconic staple of the human diet that I knew that it would need to be included at some point. Also, it wasn't any entirely original concept; many multigrain breads that you can buy at the grocery store are beginning to rely on the nutritive power of lentils for enrichment. The goal then was to find a recipe worthy of its place as a lentil bread. While blind experimentation, as I have toted, is tons of fun and leads to creatively inspired, if sometimes unintentional, dishes, baking is a whole different animal. Especially because I rarely bake. So my goal was to find a recipe that most utilized the lentils. I wanted not a big, soft loaf that happened to have lentils, but a dense loaf packed with nutritive lentils rather than fluffy, gluten-stabilized air bubbles.

Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. As is common with most of my dishes, I found lots of recipes that added lentils as an ingredient to lots of other things but never was the star. While I would still like to eventually experiment at making a lentil-rich loaf, I decided that I would still try one of these lentil-additive loafs. The Lentil Bread that I decided to use is a pretty simple recipe combining lentil puree with flour, yeast, water/milk, oil and a little onion and garlic for something extra. Having a stand mixer always helps while mixing, but this recipe is at the limit that it can hold as the dough climbed up the bread hook and tried to work its way into the motor (that's what I get for being distracted). Despite being messy and sticky (as all my limited baking work seems to be) the recipe turned out tremendously well. The bread is everything that a wheat-flour bread should be: soft, chewy, slightly fragrant and, since I made it myself, unbelievably fresh. The lentils are faintly present, but if you didn't know they were there you might only notice them by the slightly green color on the inside (vaguely reminiscent of a matcha bread that a coworker once made). Also, mine was changed a little from the recipe. I only had one cup of bread flour and the rest was All-Purpose, so I switched the whole-wheat for the bread and the bread for the AP: the recipe still came out fine.

The other recipe that I'd had for forever was a Lentil Pate. I figured I would do it alongside the bread because a) it is very quick and easy and b) I thought it would go well on a slice of toasted lentil bread. As far as lentil recipes go, this one is a cinch. Cook, blend, cool. It is not exceptionally flavorful, but the texture is nice as a spread. I tried it on a piece of the bread and it helped perk the flavor a bit, but I think the texture would have been better contrasted if I had toasted the bread first (which is difficult to do since it was my lunch at work). I would use this recipe as a baseline and add different spices to it according to your endgame: curry powder, smoked paprika, lemon juice and ground star anise. The possibilities are endless.

Lentil Bread
Makes 3 loaves (approx. 36 slices)

  • 3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1-1/2 cups warm fat-free milk (110° to 115°)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 6 to 7 cups bread flour


  • In a saucepan, combine the lentils, water, onion and garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor; cover and process until smooth. Cool to 110°-115°.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, lentil mixture, oil, sugar, Parmesan, salt, whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining bread flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in three greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375° for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Lentil Pate
Serves 6 to 8 or a party as a cracker spread

1 cup lentils, pre-cooked in 2 cups of water OR 1-1/2 cups canned cooked lentils, drained
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
6 teaspoons margarine
1 teaspoon black pepper
Water if necessary
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

In a large saucepan, gently saute sweet onion and garlic in the margarine over low heat until soft, but not browned. Season with black pepper. Add lentils and heat until warmed through.

Scrape lentil mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Process until smooth, adding water if necessary. Add vinegar and pulse until combined.

Serve lentil pate at room temperature with toasted bread rounds or savory crackers for a delicious vegetarian appetizer that will appeal to all.

Lastly, as promised, a lentil beer update! I have consumed now consumed...lentil beer, sort of. And lived! Let me explain.

As I have discussed many times, the seemingly ultimate challenge to test the versatility of lentils I decided to try was lentil beer. Rather than an individual hurdle like many of the other recipes contained, lentil beer required utilizing multiple novel techniques as well as detailed planning. The steps:

1) Traditionally, beer is made from wheat or barley malt, hops, yeast and water (adjunct grains, like rice, are used in mass-quantity, domestic beers as filler). The alcohol comes from the fermentation of sugars in the malt by the yeast. Therefore, in order to make lentil beer, I would need to discover how to make lentil malt.

2) Research regarding malts led to lots of cool tidbits on the only part of brewing I had yet to try (I have always used canned malt extract when making batches of beer). The most helpful realization: the barley or wheat must first be sprouted in order to cause the grains to release amylase, which breaks the long starch molecules in the plants down into smaller components that the yeast can ferment. (Tangential fun fact: another source of amylase is saliva, so technically I could chew the lentils and spit them into a container to provide the amylase, which is the traditional technique for the Latin American, corn-based drink, Chicha.) So now the questions is: can I sprout lentils?

3) Anyone who has read the sprouted lentil stir fry knows that I found out the answer is yes. And that it is done quite commonly. So I decided that in theory if I were to mash the sprouted lentils and heat them in a pot of water at around 170F and a pH of 5.5, activating the amylase, then I should be able to get a sugary wort from the lentils to use in fermentation. So that is what I tried. Unfortunately, my specific gravity did not go up. In brewing, the amount of sugar is usually measured by specific gravity (which is the density of the liquid with respect to water). Larger specific gravities mean more sugar in the solution. When the beer ferments, the sugars turn into alcohol, which is lighter than water, so the density goes down. Measuring specific gravity allows you to both calculate the fermented sugars (and thus alcohol percentage) as well as verify that the fermentation process is completed so that it does not start up again after bottling, resulting in exploding bottles. Since my specific gravity didn't go up, it meant that I didn't have significant amounts of sugars in the wort to facilitate brewing. At this point I had consumed a few beers and began to get frustrated, so I started grabbing handfuls of brown sugar and throwing them into the wort. And this is where the recipe begins to deviate from ideal. With the sugar added, there was now fermentable material, so what I needed was yeast.

4) For yeast I had planned on using Chimay Belgium Trappist Ale yeast. This is one of my favorite tricks in brewing. Anytime you buy a bottle-conditioned beer (Belgian trappists, German hefeweizens, etc. are popular options), the yeast used to brew the beer are still in the bottle. Since there aren't sugars left for them to digest, they lay dormant; however, if you decant most of the beer and then add the last yeast-rich slurry to a little sugar, voila!, they awaken and begin fermenting anew. Thus if you ever want to brew a beer closely in the style of a Belgian trappist, what better way than to use the exact same yeast strain? So I decanted most of my bottle into a glass and then added the rest to my one quart of wort, hoping it would ferment. I put it in a mason jar and added an airlock to the top.

5) Sure enough, the beer fermented and after I measured the specific gravity, I was able to determine that I had made 6.4% alcohol beer! I added a little bit of sugar to be fermented for carbonation and bottled the mixture into two bottles: one 12oz. and one 22oz. After waiting a week, I chilled it in the fridge and gave it a try. It is....interesting. It is very bright with heavy apple and citrus notes. Having had the Chimay, I know that most of these tastes were produced by the yeast itself as it fermented the brown sugar; however, there is an underlying body and almost earthy taste that comes from the lentils. It may not be a beer that I would want to drink in endless glasses but it was good enough to make me want to try to make it again for real.

6) Which brings me to my last point. Lentil Beer: Part Deux. I'm still not sure exactly how I will fix the wort-making process, but I am currently sprouting two batches of lentils that hopefully I will be able to turn into sugary goodness. I will keep you posted on the status, but the fact that the first batch was more-than-palatable makes me excited that I might be able to create an enjoyable lentil beer. And that would be a feat for this project.


  1. You're right, the lentil pate's texture was the most interesting. Not the flavor. But adding a little bit of zing would make it a really nice protein- and fiber-rich spread for sandwiches. I'm excited to try the lentil bread.... still have a nibble to share? :)

  2. About the beer...
    1) did you grind the lentils after sprouting? That would expose more surface area and allow the available starches to ferment. I am also wondering, since lentils are so rich in Aminos and proteins, is ratio of starches really suitable to lentil only fermentation?

    2) Did you dry the lentils after sprouting? I think other grain malts are dried to make them transportable, but I also think that there might be a chemical component to drying the malt (brewmaster I am not!).

    I would say that this is going to be an interesting process as barley alternatives are becoming quite the rage in home brewing. To start you may want to use malt extract and then use the malted lentils as an adjunct.
    Nonetheless, bravo Sir on your willingness to experiment like this!

  3. did you ever solve your lentil beer problem? I was considering doing the same thing when I came across your blog. I'd be really curious to hear the results!

  4. I am going to attempt this as well..

    My thread:

    Did either of you go anywhere with this..?