HOW WE USE TARTARY BUCKWHEAT
Our unofficial motto: “Tastes like dirt, only better!” It hasn’t made it onto our label, but this phrase does suggest the earthy taste of Tartary buckwheat. Some researchers assume that widespread acceptance of this species must await the development of varieties with milder flavor and reduced bitterness. However, some compounds that impart the bitterness and earthiness also give Tartary buckwheat many of its healthful properties. Our own experience—and that of many of the researchers described below—is that the traditional varieties we currently grow are ready for today’s venturesome cooks and diners.
Our basic rule is that Tartary buckwheat flour can be substituted 1:1 for up to one third of the wheat flour in many recipes. The resultant dish will take on some of the buckwheat’s greenish-yellow color, as well as its earthy taste and aroma. Lacking gluten, flour of either common or Tartary buckwheat also lacks the elasticity of wheat flour. Therefore, substituting buckwheat for wheat flour produces noodles with less tensile strength, breads with less rise, and cakes that crumble. In several studies, color, flavor, and consistency of noodles, breads, and cookies containing Tartary buckwheat have been judged to be completely acceptable, if the proportion does not exceed one third. That said, we often enjoy pancakes made of equal parts wheat and Tartary buckwheat, and also enjoy the distinctive flavor of dattan soba noodles made with that same ratio. In dishes that are not normally sweetened, we sometimes add a small amount of molasses or maple syrup to cover any bitterness from the Tartary buckwheat. An acidic ingredient can also help neutralize the bitterness in many recipes.
We currently package three products from Tartary buckwheat seeds—light flour, dark flour, and grits. As described in the section on NUTRITIONAL ASPECTS, the light and dark flour can differ substantially in their chemical composition and culinary and nutritional properties. We use them interchangeably, but generally add a lower ratio of buckwheat to wheat flour when using dark flour. Some millers produce grits comprising mostly of large fragments of the seed’s central endosperm, and therefore chemically similar to pale flour (i.e., semolina). In contrast, the grits that we package are similar in composition to our dark flour (i.e., lower in endosperm, and higher in bran), but also containing visible flakes of hull. Therefore, of our products, the grits possess the most intense flavor. We use them to add texture to pancakes, cakes, and breads—in the same way that corn grits are used in some recipes.
Intrepid chefs who have already incorporated quinoa, amaranth, or other “ancient grains” into their cooking will find in Tartary buckwheat yet another way to diversify their repertoire. As mentioned above, the traditional cultivation and consumption of Tartary buckwheat declined in many places over several decades. Nevertheless, those willing to travel to exotic places, libraries, or just the internet might discover traditional recipes that incorporate Tartary buckwheat. We’ve found nothing so inspiring as the creativity of the Education Centre Piramida in Maribor, Slovenia. They have experimented with Tartary buckwheat flour and groats in a dizzying array of dishes. Our own research continues, but we welcome your input in this collaborative adventure.
OUR FAVORITE PANCAKE RECIPE
Mix 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup Tartary buckwheat grits, and 2 teaspoons baking soda in a bowl.
Stir in 1 egg and 1 cup yogurt. Stir in milk until batter has the consistency of heavy cream.
Pour batter into a hot, oiled griddle. Flip when bubbles appear in the center of the cake and its edges appear dry.
Serve with honey or maple syrup, fresh fruit or stewed rhubarb, and yogurt.
TARTARY BUCKWHEAT SUGAR COOKIES
(contain neither gluten nor dairy products)
Combine in a food large processor or else hand whisk together:
3 1/2 cups Tartary buckwheat flour
1 cup Tartary buckwheat grits
2 scant teaspoons baking soda
1 cup 10x (confectioners) sugar
Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
Use food processor to mix the following:
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup light vegetable oil
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir together until well mixed.
Form into two balls and refrigerate for an hour or more. (You can roll out the dough without chilling, but you’ll need to put plenty of extra flour on the counter to keep the dough from sticking. )
Roll to desired thickness; thin will make crisp wafer-like cookies, while thick will make cake-like cookies. Use cookie cutters to shape. With a thin spatula, transfer cookies to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 11 minutes for thin cookies or 14 for thicker cookies. Remove from oven and cool on racks. These freeze beautifully
CHOCOLATE BUCKWHEAT COOKIE
1 1/2 cups pale Tartary buckwheat flour
1/2 cup Tartary buckwheat grits
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
3/4 cup coconut oil (melted and cooled slightly)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In a food processor, sift together the buckwheat, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
2. In the food processor, briefly beat together the sugar, eggs, softened coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Alternately add some of the flour mixture, and pulse just until combined. The dough should be thick like brownie batter.
3. Refrigerate dough for an hour, or until it’s firm enough to roll into balls.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) balls and place 3 inches (7 1/2 cm) apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until the tops of the cookies are no longer wet in the middle.
5. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
TARTARY BUCKWHEAT CRUMBLE PIE CRUST – for a Sweet Pie or a Savory Quiche
Spin 2 1/2 cups Tartary buckwheat flour in a food processor to lighten it.
Add 1/2 cup sugar for sweet pie (optional), or 2 tsp salt and 1/4 cup of your favorite fresh herbs, or 1 tablespoon of dried herb for a quiche crust. (Dill is great! ) Blend well.
To this mixture add 2 sticks (one cup) cold cold butter cut into 1 inch chunks.
Process/pulse until bits of butter are the size of peas. Add 1/2 cup water and now carefully pulse just enough to mix (about 10-12 pulses).
Place half of crumbly mixture into each of two pie plates. Quickly use your floured fingers to shape the pie crust around the plate, and then place in your freezer. Repeat with the second pie plate.
While the pie crusts are happily chilling in the freezer, you have time to create the filling. Preheat your oven to 400ºF and precook the crusts for 15 minutes. Remove and add your filling. Return to the oven and cook at 350ºF until filling is hot and bubbly.
DATTAN SOBA . . . SORTA
Japanese soba masters might be aghast, but our recipe for Tartary buckwheat noodles sacrifices tradition for ease. We adapted this from James Udesky’s recipe in The Book of Soba.
Add one cup of not-quite-boiling water to one cup of pale Tartary buckwheat flour. Stir until it is cool enough to work with your hands. Then repeatedly squeeze handfuls of the paste through your fingers.
When the paste has been worked to a smooth thick consistency, place about one-third of it on top of a small pile (1/2 cup) of whole wheat flour. With your palm, push the wet buckwheat dough into the dry flour; then pull some of the dry flour on top of the dough, and repeat. As necessary, add wheat flour and continue kneading until the dough can be rolled into a sheet. Roll out a circle of dough (as for a pie crust), and flour both its top and bottom surfaces. Fold in half and set aside.
Repeat this process with another third of the buckwheat dough. Stack the folded circle of dough on top of the previous one, aligning the two folded edges. Then repeat this process with the remainder of the buckwheat dough.
Place the stacked sheets of dough with their folded edges away from you. Starting at the left or right end, use a large knife to cut slices perpendicular to the folded edge. The width of the slices will determine the width of the noodles (1/8 to 3/8″). These should be uniform, so that they will cook uniformly.
If the dough is sufficiently dry, then the noodles can be gently separated with your fingers. I spread them in a loose jumble, no more than 3 or 4 deep, on a plate or tray to dry. (If the layers of noodle cannot be separated, then reform the dough into a ball, and work more flour into it. Knead, roll, and cut it as before. )
To cook noodles (either immediately or days later), add them to two quarts of boiling water in a deep sauce pan. Gently stir the noodles while the water resumes boiling, adjusting the flame to avoid foaming over. After 5-6 minutes of cooking, test the consistency of the noodles. They should be firm and chewy but should not taste raw. When they are sufficiently cooked, pour the noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water. There is no limit to the sauces with which these noodles can be served either hot or cold.
Because so much of the buckwheat flour ends up dissolved in the cooking water, some soba eaters also drink the latter. My preference is to cook the noodles into a soup. While bringing the cooking water to a boil, add some finely diced garlic and onion. After you drop the noodles into the boiling water, also add other diced vegetables and herbs (basil, cilantro, or parsley). Flavor with soy sauce, hot sauce, and/or rice vinegar. Remove from heat just before the noodles are fully cooked, allow to sit a few minutes, and serve right in the stock/cooking water.
TARTARY BUCKWHEAT/WHEAT BREAD
Unless you love to knead bread–and I don’t–this recipe is very well suited to using a counter-top mixer. That allows you to have bread rising in 15 minutes and a finished product in 2 hours, even in a home kitchen.
Whisk together in a mixer bowl:
- 3 cups of whole wheat flour,
- 3 tblsp sugar,
- 2 tblsp yeast,
- 1 tblsp salt
- 1/3 c softened butter
- 2 and 2/3 cups hot tap water
Mix with a rubber spatula to combine ingredients. Then place bowl onto the mixer base and mix with a dough hook for 2 minutes at slow to medium speed. Then add:
- 1 cup Tartary Buckwheat Flour
- 1 cup Tartary Buckwheat Grits
Continue mixing; then add whole wheat flour one cup at a time until dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Remove the dough to a floured counter and knead a couple times to form a round ball. Push loose flour around the dough to let it spread easily on the counter.
Let dough rise until it has doubled in size (about 1/2 hour). Cut risen dough into equal halves. Shape and place them into two greased bread pans.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Allow dough to rise until loaves have doubled in volume.
Bake loaves for 35 – 40 minutes at 400. Remove them from oven and cool them on their sides.
Receive the kisses you’ll get for making the house smell so good, and enjoy!
Tartary buckwheat flour and grits can be substituted for rye flour in a basic cracker recipe. This recipe makes about 2 dozen 1”X2” crackers.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pale Tartary buckwheat flour
1/2 cup Tartary buckwheat grits
1 tablespoon caraway seed
1 teaspoon salt
Small handful of fresh chives (or 1 tablespoon dried chives)
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons honey
About 1/2 cup water
Combine wheat flour, buckwheat flour, grits, caraway seed, and salt in a bowl.
Thoroughly blend chives, crushed garlic cloves, oil, and honey in a food processor.
With short pulses, add the dry ingredients to the oil blend.
Slowly add water with short pulses, ceasing as soon as the dough forms a ball.
On parchment paper, roll out about half the dough into a sheet 1/8—1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with flour if the dough sticks to the rolling pin.
With a knife, score the rolled dough into rectangles, and poke each with the tines of a fork. Small edge pieces can be added to the remainder of dough, which is shaped in the same way.
Move dough with parchment paper to cookie sheets.
Bake at 375ºF for about 10 minutes (when edges just start to brown).