Buck the Trend, Bake Buckwheat Bread

Fancy a beautiful slice of bread with a taste of Eastern Europe? Then buckwheat bread is a great alternative and tastes fantastic. Absolutely heavenly when toasted and slathered in honey.    It is also a great conduit for stronger more mature cheeses. Buckwheat flour has a quite distinctive flavour and beautiful earthy quality.  It rounds out the bread and brings a depth to the otherwise bland plain white wheat flour. Hugely popular in Ukraine, buckwheat is called ‘Grechka’ which comes from the Ukrainian for ‘Greek’ as it was introduced to Eastern Europe by the Greeks around the 7th Century. Despite the name, buckwheat is not a wheat, grain or grass.  It’s actually related to rhubarb and the kernels which are ground are technically a fruit! However, when ground these fruit behave much like a grain and therefore able to be ground into flour. High in minerals and fiber there is evidence that we have eaten buckwheat for around 8,000 years. The etymology of buckwheat comes from the fact that the large seeds resembled large Beech tree seeds.  Sanskrit for Beech is ‘Buk’ which is how we get ‘Buckwheat’. I am using a ratio of 4:1 of wheat to buckwheat flour here.  You can alter that ratio but be aware that buckwheat flour has no gluten in it which will mean the higher the ratio of buckwheat the less elasticity you will have in the crumb. I am using a higher water content here in comparison to the Basic White Bread recipe so I’m using the mixer which makes it easier to knead the wetter dough.  That’s also the reason why I’m letting it sit before kneading for a longer period.  You can do it by hand but you’ll need to persevere! I recommend reading my article on White Bread for the background on all the basic bread techniques you need to get great bread.   Ingredients 400g Strong baker’s flour 100g Buckwheat flour 7g or 1 sachet of fast acting dried yeast 350ml water at room / blood temperature 9g salt 18g caster sugar 25g cold butter Utensils A large mixing bowl Electric mixer with dough hook Electric weighing scales 2 wicker bannetons Baking tray Cooling rack Begin by sieving your two flours together into the mixing bowl.  Add in the salt, sugar and dried yeast. Rub the butter into the flour so it all disappears. Make a well in the bottom and add in your water.  Reserve a little just to make sure you get the right consistency.  You should be able to collect all of the flour and liquid together into a complete shaggy mass with no extra flour left around the bowl. Turn out onto your work surface and allow to sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes for the moisture to absorb as much as possible before kneading.  For this recipe I left it to sit for one hour. Now transfer the dough to the electric mixer, attach the dough hook and mix until you have a soft, elastic and pliable dough.  For me this was just under 10 minutes. When you are happy, return to a lightly oiled bowl and allow to double in size at room temperature. When doubled in size knock back and remove from the bowl.  Using your scales divide the dough into equal sizes according to how you are going to do your final prove.  This amount gave me two 425g loaves. I shaped each into a ball by gently flattening the ball and then folding the edges to the middle.  Then turn the ball over so the rough folds are at the bottom.  ‘Cup’ the ball at the bottom with both hands on either side and rotate the ball thereby aligning the bottom. Line each banneton with a clean and floured tea towel.  I used a coarse semolina here which gave me a delicious extra crunch to the final loaf. I then turned the ball upside down into the floured tea towel in the banneton as I will later turn it onto the baking tray back on to the under side. Leave to prove for a second time until risen again.  This will be a shorter time than the first. Pre heat your oven to 220 ° C conventional and place your baking tray in the oven.  If you are using a steam bath technique put your empty tray under to heat up as well. The dough is ready when you press a finger gently to dent the dough and the dent remains. Remove the baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Now turn the dough onto your pre heated and floured tray, spray with water, sprinkle with more flour and then very lightly carve a line in the top with a very sharp knife. Return to the oven with a big spray of water into the oven or pour cold water onto your heated tray in the bottom of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes on 220 ° C then turn your oven down to 200° C for a further 35 minutes.  A total of 45 minutes. Remember that ovens vary so take them out when they are done, not simply at the end of the cooking time.  Bake the loaf not recipe! You want your loaves coloured on the crust, feeling ‘light for the size’ and sounding hollow when tapped.  Those three indicators should do you well. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave until cool.  Don’t be tempted to slice open before they are cool! Bon Appetit or ‘Smachnova’ as we say here in Ukraine.

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