Sunday, July 26, 2009

Now at the age of twenty-six I'm able to say that I finally made my first pancake. I had never really been a super fan of pancakes to begin with. I liked them well enough but always preferred eggs and bacon, with my eggs still runny so that I could sop up the bright yolks with bits of slightly undercooked bacon and buttermilk biscuits.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy pancakes. My mom always made little pancake people with smiling faces made out of raisins when I was a child. Elise's mom can pile onto my plate a six inch tall stack of blueberry buttermilk pancakes. To this I'll complain that my bird-like stomach can't possibly eat it all, but after she passes me some syrup, butter, and a tall mug of black tea she knows I'll finish them with a satiated smile.

So why all the sudden pancakes? The reason is that I had too much buckwheat on hand. What else am I supposed to do? I was buckwheat scone'd and buckwheat cookie'd out, though like the blueberry pancakes I could probably eat more had I not devoured them all already.

I blame Alice Medrich. Her cookbook, Pure Dessert, was the impetus for me to go all buck wild. Before her I had never even tasted the stuff. Buckwheat was more to me some rascal on an old comedy show whose mom was too cheap to buy him a haircut than an off the beaten path flour.

I picked up the book on a whim after being hypnotized by her sesame cake recipe. I was like a deer in headlights looking at the simple cake that was comprised of the most basic ingredients (that I kept regularly in my kitchen I might add). Normally not someone to make any purchase on the fly, I convinced myself by recalling some saying that any cookbook is worth the price for just the one recipe that inspires you. After twenty-six years I am, however, good at convincing myself.

The book's chapters are all arranged by type of ingredients such as fruit, grains, chocolate, honey and sugars. The book certainly requires you live near a Whole Foods of Co-Op. In order to explore the subjects eccentric ingredients such as lebni, chestnut flour and muscovado have to be procured. Not wanting to search high and low and pay out so much I looked for the more practical recipes.
-Buckwheat nibby butter cookies from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert-

My eye was caught by a short recipe entitled nibby buckwheat butter cookies. Not an everyday recipe, but practical for me as I regularly keep cocoa nibs on hand which by my own definitions makes me eccentric, I guess. Flours, butter, sugar, and cocoa nibs. Easy enough. Off to the store I went to find a bag of buckwheat thinking on the way what other recipes I could do to ensure that I used every penny's worth.

Before I move on I should elaborate on buckwheat. Not so sure myself what it was I decided to consult Regan Daley's book, In the Sweet Kitchen, my go-to resource for any baking questions. Daley notes that buckwheat isn't a grain but rather the seed of an herb. It has similar nutritional properties to wheat flour but is gluten free. The color is that of ground nutmeg and the flavor is nutty, reminding you of slightly bleached earth that's seen too much sun. It's appropriate then that the texture is sandy, or even silty like the bottom of a river shore when baked into cookies and muffins. An entirely delightful ingredient.

Anyways, after shopping I got home, then started and finished the cookies. I allowed them to sit to the next day per Medrich's instructions and brought them to work. Nutty, sandy, earthy, buttery. Perfectly matched with the mocha-esque cocoa nibs. I don't really like crunchy cookies but there were my exception. Eagerly eaten and encouraged to make more, the cookies were crunchy revelations.

The next recipe was Medrich's buckwheat and semolina scones. The different grains and flours offer an array of textures and flavors that are surprising at first, welcomed at the finish. I found myself greedily smearing the tender scones with apricot jam and marmalade and washing it all down with steamy cups of Earl Grey. Medrich knows how to work her buckwheat.
-Pictured: A sweet tasting buckwheat scone seconds before I devour it.-

Unlike the scones, my first pancakes had a little help. BF had made them plenty of times before so while I made the batter he did most of the cooking though I did flip the first one (go me!). As he slowly stacked them up their sweet-dough smell crawled along the walls of the kitchen and filled the apartment. I decided to break out the elderberry syrup that Elise had made from the elderberries we picked earlier this month and dropped a few pats of butter on top.

Buckwheat pancakes with elderberry syrup. It sounded so Chez Panisse and somewhat ozarkian. Either way it was good. The pancakes were wheaty and full and perfectly soaked up the port-like syrup, imbuing them with a deep indigo hue and a port-wine flavor. Cut with a bit of whipped butter it was a breakfast that declares, "This will be a perfect Sunday."

Buckwheat has earned its place as a regular staple in my pantry from this point on. I'm smitten. Enamored. It's too delicious not to have on hand as who knows what kinds of recipes can be concocted from it?

But now I'm curious what other grains and seeds and flours are like.

Anyone have any kamut by chance?

Buckwheat Pancakes
Serves 2, makes 8 medium sized pancakes
Adapted from All-Recipes

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted (plus extra for the skillet)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter. In another whisk together the all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.

2. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the liquid.

3. Place some butter into a skillet and set over medium heat. Pour on about 1/4 cup amounts of the batter onto the skillet. Let cook for minute or two. When bubbles form on top flip the pancake and let cook for another minute or two. Continue this process until all the batter is used up.


  1. Everything looks so, so good! Cookies, scones, pancakes -- they all look delicious. Now that you've discovered buckwheat, maybe you'll want to think about going almost straight to the source and trying kasha. Well, maybe not now, when it's so hot, but keep it in mind for the cold weather.

  2. I love making the buckwheat cookies! They are so easy to eat!
    Thanks for all these recipes! We love buckwheat crepes too, always make me feel closer to home. Hmm, buckwheat pancakes and apricot Riesling jam?!!

  3. All of these buckwheat wonders look amazing, but it's those scones that have captured my heart. That cookbook is now officially on my wishlist.

  4. I made these cookies a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved them. Pure Dessert is in my top 3 baking books right now. Love, love, love it. Every recipe I've tried so far has been amazing. On the hunt for kamut flour, too...

  5. HI Garrett,

    Love the new look. Well new for me as it's been a while since I stopped by your blog. :(
    been heartsick, for oh about a year.

    The cookies look great. I need to get on with life and start exploring my world of cooking again oh and men.

    I'm reading Julie-Julia with my daughter before the release of the movie. Fun book! :)

    Enough about me. Was there a blogger's potluck this year? Any coming up?

    Have a great week. Debby

  6. I cannot imagine going that long to make pancakes. I love runny yolks myself but nothing beats an exceptionally good pancake. I had some a few months back at Founding Farmers in DC and they were so good they stuck in my mind for months after. I also happen to love buckwheat flour. I find it pretty mild for a whole grain flour and a perfect introduction for anyone who thinks they don't like whole grains.

  7. Eat Beast is right, these pancakes rock! Made them this weekend, and will make them again very soon! Thanks!

  8. Thanks so much for posting these scrumptious recipes! I create a lot of gluten free recipes, but have not created anything with buckwheat, as mine was too old and I had to toss it. You have inspired! Thank you for this!

    Keep up the great work! - us gluten free dieters appreciate ti!



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