This month of June has been continual change. From trips out of town to friends taking new jobs to continually decreasing pants sizes, it’s been one thing after another. For many of these things, I guess it’s really been more of a culmination, in which wheels that have been in motion, things have been coming, in these last few weeks finally have. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. It’s something we’ll talk more about next week (along with a big announcement! stay tuned!).
But meanwhile, let’s talk about another kind of change, a specific one that’s been happening in my kitchen and could happen in yours: buckwheat flour.
Because, thing is, it’s not just June that’s been change for me; it’s 2010, which over the last six months has brought one new realization after another. What started with the removal of refined sugars and flours in a new year’s resolution led to the reading of labels and analyzing of ingredient lists, avoiding things I couldn’t pronounce or recognize in favor of more whole foods like blueberries, eggs, butter, milk, grass-fed meat. I watched Food, Inc. (thanks, Kendra!). I read The Maker’s Diet. I gave up white bread and chose sprouted grains. I started drinking kombucha (Whole Foods, are you listening? please start carrying it again!). Along the way, I also started taking cod liver oil and a probiotic.
The changes all felt pretty natural, like I was just taking care of my body in new ways, and while I have been eating very well and working out only two or three times a week, I’ve lost twelve pounds, without even meaning to. It’s crazy.
And really, the only change that ever felt difficult at all was probably the earliest one: removing white all-purpose flour and white sugar from my baking. You know how I like to bake. But instead of white sugar, I’ve now used raw sugar, turbinado sugar, sucanat, honey, maple syrup and, after my recent trips to the southern United States, sorghum syrup. Instead of white flour, I’ve worked with whole wheat pastry flour, regular whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, spelt flour and now, most recently, buckwheat flour.
I’ve been learning how to use these whole grains, trying them in cakes and cookies, giving them to people to see what they think. Wheat has a distinguishable taste; most people have tried baking with it and know what I mean. Regular spelt is pretty hearty and again distinguishable; white spelt behaves much like all-purpose white and so is an easy substitute. Buckwheat, on the other hand, is a thing all its own.
I mentioned it briefly with these waffles, where I said although it behaves like a grain or a cereal, it’s actually related to rhubarb, and is gluten-free, good at turning things slightly gray. Let me now add to that: It’s high in insoluble fiber, loaded with antioxidants and linked to all kinds of health benefits.
Diets that include buckwheat connect to decreased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, better control of blood sugar and decreased risk of diabetes, prevention for women against gallstones (along with other high-fiber foods), protection against heart disease, even protection against breast cancer (to learn more, check out this article at whfoods.com).
If all those reasons aren’t enough to talk you into trying buckwheat, I don’t know what could. Well, except maybe these cookies. The brainchild of Dawna (hey, rhymes with Shanna!) at Always in the Kitchen, they incorporate enough spices—namely cinnamon, ginger, cloves—to create a good kick in flavor that really minimizes the taste of buckwheat. Of course, I’m growing to really enjoy that taste of buckwheat, but if you’re unsure, and if you like a good spicy cookie, you’ll love these. They’re soft, fragrant, comforting—easy to eat seven of at a time, you know, not that anyone around here did. Ahem.
Buckwheat Ginger Cookies
Adapted from Always in the Kitchen
2/3 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup sucanat
1 3/4 cups buckwheat flour*
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sorghum syrup (or molasses)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
A couple teaspoons of raw sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the coconut oil and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and mix together. Add the sorghum (or molasses) and beat until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, salt and spices until thoroughly combined, and then dump it into the molasses mixture. Stir slowly as the dough stiffens up into a thick paste, being sure to incorporate all of the flour. You don’t want any white streaks in the dough.
Use a teaspoon to scoop up a walnut-sized lump of dough, and roll it between your palms until it is nice and round. Dip the top of it in raw sugar and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Leave a little room between each cookie, as they will expand.
Bake for about 10 minutes – they should be a little underdone when you pull them out.
Makes 2 -3 dozen large cookies
*I only used 1 1/2 cups of buckwheat flour, which made my cookies turn out a little softer and less puffy than the original. Feel free to experiment for the texture you’d like.