Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ode to buckwheat

Buckwheat: I love it! Related to rhubarb, this GF pseudo-cereal makes one of the most flavorful of flours.

When I was growing up, no winter was complete without a week-long spate of buckwheat pancakes. My mother had a special bowl to make them in, and when we kids saw it sitting on the kitchen counter, we (or I, I'm not sure about my siblings) knew a treat was in store.

Mom's recipe calls for buckwheat and plain wheat flour mixed with yeast, water and sugar. She would stir this up in the evening and let it stand overnight. As the yeast fermented the batter would expand so dramatically it often "Walked out of the bowl," as my French friend Claudine now likes to say.

In the morning Mom would stir the batter down, add oil, brown sugar and baking soda, and "bake" the cakes on a griddle wiped with bacon grease.

There is nothing finer than the smell of buckwheat cakes on a cold winter's morning, especially when your father and mother sit over them reminiscing about their childhoods and the way their parents served buckwheat (with beef brisket, both parents agreed).

I've adapted my mother's pancake recipe to be GF. More than that, I still enjoy buckwheat in general; it has a tart, nutty flavor, faintly scented of delicate herbs. It makes a great shortbread cookie, creams nicely, makes chewy groats, combines with hot pepper, sausage, maple sugar, and, most excitingly adds an oddly meaty taste to breads.

Eating buckwheat in all its forms is a hookup to memory. One spoonful and I'm in Ohio again, waiting for the kettle to boil and the sassafras tea to steep, and for the wind to blow more snow down from the lake.

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