I have a somewhat recent love affair on buckwheat. It seems like savory crepes (galettes) are all the rage here in Seattle, and almost all of them have a proportion of buckwheat in them. This is traditional to the area of France where they were apparently first developed – Brittany. Buckwheat has this lovely rich brown color, and a very distinctive nutty flavor all to its own. Even though the name might be misleading, it isn’t a wheat and is gluten free (watch out however for cross contamination in fields and processing if you are highly sensitive to gluten).
Savory crepes are quite possibly my favorite lunch of all time, given their endless variation and sheer rich indulgent mouth feel. If you ask me, it is all about the “complete” crepe – that is a crepe filled with ham and cheese, and topped with a fried egg. I mean seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that. Crepes have been a long term hit back home in England too. Heck, we have even taken over a religious holiday, Shrove Tuesday, and practically renamed it to “pancake day”. A day where you eat a lot of pancakes. More pancakes than anyone should eat in a year.
But wait, you Yank’s say… “You call it pancake day, but you eat crepes? Thats messed up”. Why yes, yes it is to those whom pancakes and crepes mean different things. You see, in England we LOVE crepes. Just love them. However, they are of French invention and our love doesn’t quite stretch to the French. So, we renamed them in England to “pancake”. (that last statement I am sure is a bloody inaccurate history lesson). So what do we call those big thick pancakes that you see above, those which American’s call Pancakes? Well, we don’t really cook those back in the UK. Jamie Oliver has made them a bit popular, but most Brit’s still go for the Crepe.. crap, I mean Pancake…. If you see them on a menu, you might see them as “Pancakes – USA style”.. or something like that.
As most readers of this blog know, I have a son. A fantastic little boy. A fantastic little boy who completely loves pancakes. Every morning he either wants pancakes or Oaty Bites (a cereal). As a somewhat health conscious family we weren’t too keen on him scoffing down a lot of white flours, normally used in making pancakes. So we started to look elsewhere. A favorite little breakfast spot of ours has buckwheat pancakes, and they were really great. So we decided to go home and make our own.
We started by taking our regular pancake recipe that we liked, and simply replacing the flour with buckwheat flour. This was OK, but yielded a pancake heavier than I would have liked. We tweaked some ratios and got things better, but still not perfect.
It wasn’t until our go-to construction bloke, all round bloody nice guy and fantastic cook stopped by one day, after he finished our kitchen remodel (yes, we found a fantastic contractor who also loves to cook!!) and we got talking about pancakes. The guy also likes to hunt, and he told us a story of when he went hunting with a friend of his recently. This friend knocked together some pancakes when they were out in the mountains, and according to Dan (our contractor) were the best pancakes he had ever tasted. Course, I thought, everything tastes better outside, especially when you have spent the night uncomfortable in a sleeping bag..). However, apparently the guy had a certain technique to making the pancakes.
“Separate the egg white from yolk. Whisk up the white until it is thick and stable, then gently fold this in to the batter at the end”
Now, I have this vision of two burly guys sitting around a campfire discussing the finer points of pancake cookery. Rifles across laps, both wearing plad. Talking pancake technique. Maybe I should send that in as a possible storyline for Brokeback Mountain 2….
So anyhow, I tried it. A revelation in pancake makin’ I would have to say. It increases the lightness (is that a word?) ten fold. Twenty fold even. Heck, lets push that to one hundred fold. It makes whole grain pancakes (such as these) lighter than white flour pancakes, but with a far superior texture and mouth feel.
These pancakes are a weekly breakfast item here in the Wrightfood household. Twice weekly to be honest. These might just convert people over to the joys of buckwheat. If nothing else, take the whip-egg-white-n-fold technique and give it a go. As far as pancakes go, they are pretty healthy – being whole grain and all. To make things even more hippie healthy, white sugar is out and maple syrup is in. You could quite easily use a lovely honey in the recipe too. If you wanted to get all trendy and high-end you can serve these with a fruit compote or sauce. Me? I like good old fashioned butter and maple syrup.
Matt’s Buckwheat Pancake tips:
- Use the milk volume as a rough guide. Depending on your milk type, you might need more or less to get the desired consistency.We use goats milk in the recipe.
- As soon as you fold in the egg whites, get cooking.
- Pan choice is important – go for a heavy pan, cast iron or carbon steel.
- Use butter as your pan-lube of choice.
- Keep pancakes warm under either a heat-lamp or a low oven as you cook them all.
- Make some larger ones to cut out shapes from. What.. you don’t have kids? Come on, everyone loves dinosaur pancakes..
(great thanks to my lovely and talented wife Danika for taking hundreds of photos of the mixing n making of these pancakes)
Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancake Recipe
(makes 9 five inch pancakes – enough for two adults and a pancake munchin kid)
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2/3tsp. baking powder
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 1/4 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of butter, plus more butter for cooking
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, powder and salt. Melt the butter in a small pan, allow to cool.
Crack the egg open, holding over a bowl. Toss the egg yolk between the two shell halves, and let the white fall in to the bowl. Add the egg yolk, maple syrup and butter to the milk, whisk to combine the liquids.
Pour the liquid mix in to the dry ingredients. Use a large spoon to thoroughly combine all ingredients. Add more milk if the mixture seems to thick. You want it to flow relatively slowly, but easily from a spoon.
Use an electric hand whisk to whisk up the egg white until it is just set and relatively solid. Gently fold this egg white in to the pancake mix until just combined. If you mix too much here then you will loose the fluffiness of the pancakes.
Heat up your pan, and rub the end of a butter stick over the cooking surface. When the butter is hot, pour in a scant 1/4 cup of batter. Cook this over medium heat until holes form in the top of the pancake, and the top looks almost set. Flip the pancake, and cook on this side for 15-30 seconds longer. Remove to a warm platter, and keep warm either in the oven or under a heat lamp.
Repeat with remaining mix.