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Buckwheat Three Ways – Part Three

December 31, 2010

In Which We End Things On A Sweet Note

When I started this buckwheat adventure, my purpose was to get more familiar with our December Grain of the Month. I wanted to explore the flavor of this nutritious whole grain, to learn all that it can offer in a dish. As I explained in the first Buckwheat Three Ways posts (here and here), my buckwheat experimentation began with a recipe that just wasn’t all I thought it could be. I wanted to use that as a jumping off point, to illustrate a few simple ways you can tweak a recipe to make it your own, and then go all out and essentially create a recipe that was 95% made up out of thin air.

But really, the center of this whole effort is buckwheat itself. For the sake of full disclosure, I should confess that I didn’t know all that much about buckwheat as an ingredient when all this began. I like buckwheat pancakes, and I’ve made simple kasha as a side dish, but beyond that, I never really cooked with it. Since we’re being honest, this “I don’t know what I’m doing but let’s go for it!” approach to cooking is fairly common in my house. The Man and I are somewhat notorious for throwing dishes together with little more than a craving for flavor and a handful of ingredients. When we improv together, we rarely fail, but it gets a little scary when you’re standing in the kitchen on your own with a package of buckwheat groats sitting on the counter and almost no idea what to do with them.

Since I started with a casserole, I knew I wanted to finish with another baked buckwheat dish. I wanted to move away from savory, but how far could buckwheat take me? Could I make a baked buckwheat dessert? Would this nutty little grain play well with sugar, or would I fumble at the end of this project and close with a colossal fail?

Enter the magical interweb! That’s right kids, the most powerful tool you have in your kitchen may not actually live in your kitchen! The internet may not slice or blend, and I don’t think it’s oven-safe, but when in doubt, you can Google the heck out of something and find yourself saved. Granted, it can sometimes take a little finesse to find exactly what you’re looking for, but in my case, I had no idea what I wanted so just about anything would’ve worked! I started with “buckwheat dessert recipes,” but when most of the results called for buckwheat flour, I had to get creative. “Buckwheat kasha dessert” turned up lots of raw food and vegan results, and no offense to the vegans, but I was fairly certain eggs were in my future. What I wanted was something soft and sweet, something that could work as a breakfast or a dessert, kind of like a rice or bread pudding. “Buckwheat bread pudding” turned up recipes actually calling for buckwheat bread (and one bread pudding recipe from someone named Buckwheat), so I dropped the bread and gave “buckwheat pudding” a try.

And there it was – a recipe for buckwheat pudding. Hooray! My answer, my solution! The top search result, the exact recipe I barely hoped I’d find! And not just any recipe, a FoodNetwork.com recipe, from none other than Chef Emeril Lagasse. I clicked, I started reading… and that rule-breaking part of my mind started whispering right along with me. It went something like this:

1 vanilla bean (You don’t have a vanilla bean, so let’s just use 1 Tbsp extract)
4 cups milk (Fat free milk will work fine, don’t you think?)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp butter (Salted or unsalted? Does it matter? Let’s use both!)

So on and so forth. See what I mean?! It really is impossible for me to follow a recipe, even one from a celebrity chef! Thankfully I think all my modifications were safe, even substituting dried blueberries for 1/2 cup raisins, which I didn’t have on hand. And rather than use the 1 cup cherry jam Emeril suggests as a topping, I followed a very basic cranberry sauce recipe with the last of my frozen blueberries to make a blueberry compote. And, because I learned that you always add light to heavy when baking, I added the beaten egg whites to the rest of the mixture, rather than adding the mixture to the egg whites as the recipe instructs. (See photo to the right)

And how was it? Heavenly! Buckwheat worked perfectly in a sweet application! It soaked up the milk and became creamy without losing the nutty flavor I like so much. Folding the egg whites into the buckwheat mixture allowed them to stay fluffy and beaten, so they rose to the top while baking and created this fabulous meringue-like crust. I definitely recommend eating the pudding while its warm and fresh, maybe 10 minutes out of the oven, but I also had plenty of leftovers for breakfast and that was pretty spectacular too.

Dessert success!Dessert success!

And so ends our Buckwheat Three Ways adventure! From all of us at the WGC and Oldways, we hope you’ve enjoyed our Grain of the Month series. Thanks for sharing 2010 with us, and we wish you all a happy and safe 2011! (Kara)

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