Baking with buckwheat: A taste of the pioneer spirit

By JANINE GILBERTSON October 04. 2017 12:34AM

A "puffer pancake" gets a touch of the pioneer spirit with the addition of some buckwheat flour. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

I’m always on the hunt for ways to increase the nutritional value of things I’m cooking or baking, which led me to a recent discovery: buckwheat flour.

Now, buckwheat flour is certainly not new; it’s just new to me. When I mentioned to my mother that I’ve been using lots of buckwheat flour lately, she told me her mother used to make pancakes with buckwheat flour. And one thing about my grandmother — she knew how to feed a family. She had to; she had nine kids to feed.

The flour I’ve been using is from Bouchard Family Farms in the St. John Valley of Maine. The package has an interesting explanation of how buckwheat flour was once far more prevalent in our kitchens. It was a staple used to energize America’s pioneer men and women. Minerals like potassium and iron and vitamins such as Vitamin B make it a nutritious choice, and it also has protein.

The flour actually comes from a tiny white flower, not from a wheat, so it’s a great choice for people who stick to a gluten free diet. It is technically an herb, not a grain, although it is used as a cereal grain.

The way I’ve been working it into recipes is as a substitute for half of the white flour I would use in a recipe. For example, I have this puffer pancake recipe I came across years ago and thought I would try with buckwheat. 

This is an oven pancake that puffs up when baked in a hot oven — hence the name — and it’s made with just a few basic ingredients. The puffiness quickly collapses when the pancake comes out of the oven, but it’s fun to watch it puff up when it’s baking. 

Swapping out some white flour for some buckwheat flour gave the puffer pancake a little more flavor and made for a heartier Sunday morning breakfast.

You can substitute some buckwheat flour in your regular chocolate chip cookie recipe too; chances are your kids or loved ones (or whoever is fortunate enough to be the recipient of your cookie baking) won’t even notice the slight difference in flavor.

Buckwheat banana bread. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Buckwheat Banana Pecan Bread

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp vegetable oil

For topping:

2 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp brown sugar

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and baking powder and mix well.

Whisk in the oil and the flours until well combined. Add the mashed banana and whisk. 

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, then pour in the batter and set aside. 

Make the topping by adding the pecans, melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar to a small bowl and mix well with a fork. 

Spread the topping over the batter, then set in an oven heated to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

A “puffer pancake” gets a touch of the pioneer spirit with the addition of some buckwheat flour. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Buckwheat Puffer Pancake

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

Powdered sugar, if desired

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, flours and milk with a wire whisk. 

Add the butter to a skillet and set in the oven; remove from oven once the butter has melted. 

Add the batter to the hot skillet and set in the preheated oven to bake. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the mixture has puffed up and turned light golden brown on the edges and top. 

Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Chocolate chip cookies get a nutritional boost with the substitution of buckwheat flour for some of the white flour in the mix. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

11 oz package chocolate chips

Add the flours, baking soda and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. 

In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. 

Slowly beat in the flour mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop the mixture by the heaping teaspoon onto the parchment paper, allowing a couple of inches around each cookie so it can spread while baking. 

Set in an oven heated to 350 degrees. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.


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