Monday, May 31, 2010

Bolted Buckwheat Bakes a Better Bun

Sometimes things just go wrong.

Last spring I bought 20 pounds of buckwheat flour from my favorite mill, Lanterman’s in Youngstown Ohio, and proudly bore it home. Unfortunately it never “worked” properly. The burger buns I made (and I love hamburger buns made with buckwheat) collapsed upon cooling and were too fine-crumbed and sticky to ever be appealing. What, I wondered., had happened?

Mentally going back over other flours I’d got from Lanterman’s, I thought the big difference was that earlier samples contained bits of hull. So I ordered a bag of hulls, ground them into rice-sized flakes in my food processor and added them to the flour. Disappointment. Lots of head-scratching. Abandonment of buckwheat for other projects.

When I visited Youngstown this spring I returned to the mill to try and sort things out. A new miller was in residence. I asked for a grind with hulls included. He looked at me strangely but did as I requested. Again I took home 20 pounds of flour. Only this time his words were ringing in my ears: “If this doesn’t work, just sieve out the hulls.”

Indeed, it did not work. There were far too many hulls and they were ‘way too big. So I dutifully sieved out a pound or so of flour, It looked and smelled great, so I whipped up a batch of sourdough, formed it into loaves, and baked a trial (saving buns until I was certain).

Violá! What a difference! The reason, I realized when I put a sample of flour under a magnifying glass, was that the new flour was unbolted – meaning all the different sized grains were included. The flour that hadn’t worked so well was bolted.

Bolting a flour is a way (I suspect) of introducing consistency. With buckwheat I also suspect it’s a way of keeping the grind similar to that of wheat, since most bakers use wheat with their buckwheat. In the gluten-free world this is not an option, and I often find myself using straight buckwheat, or additives such as almond flour (for a buckwheat-almond cookie recipe click here).

When it comes to sourdough bread the bolted flour performs better in many ways, improving crumb and moisture retention and creating a higher rise. So if you’re baking GF breads with buckwheat, remember my title. And if you can’t get unbolted buckwheat in your store, give Robert Orr, the miller at Lanterman’s, a call. He’ll happily ship to you.

(This blog is being simultaneously posted at Gling, The Fresh Loaf and my site).

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