You've probably already been told to death why buckwheat is healthy (rich source of protein, essential vitamins, blah, blah, blah). We're going to tell you why it's delicious.
"We use buckwheat for desserts and savory applications," Fabian von Hauske, chef and co-owner of NYC's Wildair and Contra, says. "It has an amazing texture, and when toasted, it has an earthy toasty flavor that's quite amazing."
We, too, have been exploring the uses of the pseudo-grain (it's actually closer in relation to sorrel than wheat) only to discover its range spans far wider than traditional little blini dotted with caviar. We're talking steak tartare, glazed duck and von Hauske's signature buckwheat tart filled with hazelnut praline and thick milk chocolate cream (see the recipe).
In the culinary world, von Hauske isn't the only one saying "buck yeah," with chefs using buckwheat flour, groats and honey in new and interesting ways. Here, we chat with some other bucked-up fans to get the lowdown on cooking with it.
Flour rangers. When we first tried that tart at Wildair, we were not only blown away by the flavors but convinced that it could convince home cooks to try buckwheat flour, too. "We wanted to have a very simple chocolate tart: a shell that is crisp and has never been refrigerated; a crispy, nutty filling with the nut praline; and a soft chocolate cream," von Hauske says.
Not only does buckwheat add nuttiness to the pastry, but the flour reacts differently than all-purpose, giving a softer texture. "The dough has a better crumb; we wanted a tart shell that wasn't that solid and that would fall apart easier," von Hauske explains.
Whatever floats your groat. Olia Hercules, London-based chef and author of Mamuska, recounts requesting braised buckwheat from her mother as a child in the Ukraine. However, Hercules isn't talking about the flour, rather she's referring to buckwheat groats, the triangular seeds of the buckwheat plant before they are ground into flour. The groats are simmered in milk until tender before being served with butter and sugar for breakfast. "The flavor of the milk after buckwheat's been in there is incredible," she tells us. "I'd imagine how you guys love cereal milk, this kinda vibe." And while she still loves the Ukrainian buckwheat recipes of her childhood, today she pays homage to the grain by infusing toasted buckwheat into her ice cream base for an old-school cereal milk ice cream.
Jeremiah Stone and von Hauske, meanwhile, toast groats in butter before topping their steak tartare at Wildair, giving the dish a distinct nuttiness and a pleasant crunch. And Gavin Kaysen, chef of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, sprouts groats to make a little microgreen garden. He uses the greens, which he describes as also being nutty in flavor, as a garnish for protein-heavy dishes like chicken and sweetbreads.
Better have honey. You may be hooked on wildflower honey, but why not give buckwheat honey a go? Made from bees who pollinate the buckwheat plant, the honey takes on a dark amber color and a rich smokiness. Kaysen uses it to glaze duck.
"I like the sweet/bitter notes that it gives off," Kaysen tells us. "It's almost an umami flavor, which I find unique with honey, which you typically think of as sweet.
All we know is, any which way you try it, it's time to go buck(wheat) wild.
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