What is it?
Despite its name, buckwheat (also known as kasha) is not related to wheat. It’s not even a grain, and it’s gluten free. It’s packed full of nutrition and easy to use in baking.
The buckwheat plant is a green, leafy plant related to rhubarb. It is thought to have originated in China. Buckwheat is a fruit producing plant and it is the seeds in the fruit that are used to make buckwheat flour. The inner section of the seed is milled to produce buckwheat flour. However, the outer hull of the seed can also be milled and included in the flour to varying degrees.
The more hull that is included in the flour, the darker the flour. The darker the flour, the heavier and more dense it is when cooking (much like the difference between white and wholemeal wheat flours). And as with wheat flour, the darker the flour made from buckwheat, the more nutrients that are retained.
Cooking with buckwheat flour
Buckwheat has an earthy, nutty flavor. The flour itself comes in light and dark varieties. As mentioned above, the dark varieties include varying amounts of the outer buckwheat hull. If too much of the hull is included, the flour can take on a bitter taste.
When using this flour in your baking, it is best mixed with other grain and gluten free flours. And because it is gluten free, it lacks the same binding qualities of gluten containing flours. Including eggs, xanthan gum or guar gum in your recipe can help it all stick together.
Some good suggestions for other flours that mix well with buckwheat flour are: Soy flour, chickpea flour and quinoa flour. The nut meals such as golden flaxmeal and almond meal will also produce a nice result.
Using a couple of tablespoons of arrowroot or potato flour/starch per cup of flour mix will also give you a lighter texture. It will also help the mixture to rise of you are using a raising agent.
If you are using the darker variety, use less of it in your flour mix if you want to keep your baking light. If you prefer a denser result and/or like the nutty buckwheat flavor to be dominant, increase the percentage in your mix.
Buckwheat is an excellent source of protein. It is one of the few sources of plant protein that contain all 8 essential amino acids, in particular the amino acids lysine, threonine and tryptophan.
It is low in fat and high in fibre. It is also a good source of complex carbohydrate and has a low simple carbohydrate (sugar) content.
Buckwheat is rich in iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, manganese and magnesium. It also contains the antioxidants vitamin E, rutin and quercitin.
All things considered, that makes buckwheat and its flour a pretty healthy food.
The usual rule of thumb with storage of buckwheat flour is to keep in a sealed, airtight container in a cool, dark place.
The refrigerator is fine as long as it is properly sealed to prevent moisture and odour absorption. Properly stored, it will last 2 – 3 months. However, depending on the climate you live in, it can last longer. A dry climate will help in keeping the flour for longer. As will a cooler climate.
Are you ready to start baking? Try this
grain and gluten free pancake recipe
for a quick and easy introduction to the health benefits of buckwheat. Or try making
grain and gluten free pasta
- it could be easier than you think.
Where do you get it?
Buckwheat flour is becoming more and more widely available in many countries. It is often found in the health food section of the supermarket. Also try health food stores and online.
Alternatively, make your own by grinding raw or roasted buckwheat kernels in a grinder for fresh and instant flour.
There are two advantages to this:
1. No wastage, and
2. As the nutrient content of ground food deteriorates over time, making it on demand will be healthier for you too.
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