Gluten-Free Flours: Buckwheat Flour

And so we’ve arrived at Chapter 5 of my investigation into gluten-free flours which is all about the incredibly nutritious and popular Buckwheat Flour.

Buckwheat Flour on a wooden board with a spoon

I’ve been featuring buckwheat flour in a few of my recipes lately and with good reason. Buckwheat flour is a tasty and beautifully delicate flour with a robust flavour and makes an excellent alternative to plain wheat flour.

Don’t be alarmed by its puzzling moniker, buckwheat flour is a bit of a misnomer since it has nothing to do with wheat at all so is perfectly safe for those avoiding gluten. Buckwheat is actually a herb, better related to rhubarb and sorrel. It’s what is commonly referred to as a pseudo-grain since it looks and acts like a grain but is actually a seed rich in complex carbohydrates.

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Buckwheat flour is made by milling these triangular seeds into powder. The resulting flour can be greyish brown in colour and if it hasn’t been ultra refined can also be speckled with black flecks. It’s a delicate flour but with a dense texture when baked and can be used on its own but if you want to make a swap of wheat flour with buckwheat then you would be best to pair it with other flours which better mimic the gluten effect and can lighten the results.

The below Coffee and Walnut Tres Leches Cake uses 50% buckwheat flour and 50% white rice flour in the flour blend to make the most of the buckwheat flavour but still give a light and airy sponge.

Coffee and Walnut Tres Leches Cake {gluten-free}

What are the benefits of using buckwheat flour?

Buckwheat itself is a very highly regarded ancient grain due to its many nutritional benefits. It is a carbohydrate but contains a high level of protein and fibre which aids digestion. It is also said to contain disease fighting anti-oxidants and can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

The flavour of buckwheat flour is also highly in its favour. Although buckwheat groats can be a bit of a required taste since they are a little bitter, the flour itself has a strong earthy intense profile which sit well in many baked goods and recipes. However, it is best to use in recipes where you are happy to let the flavour of the flour shine through.

Buckwheat is delicious in pastry and acts as a lovely foil to the filling like in this Spring Nettle Leaf and Cheddar Tart.

Can I use buckwheat flour in place of plain wheat flour?

Buckwheat flour doesn’t rise which is why it is so well suited to pancakes, biscuits or in pastry. If you are using it in a cake then the results may be a little heavy or crumbly (not too much of a surprise for a gluten-free flour) but if you use it in combination with the right flour such as sweet rice flour or almond flour then that should improve the texture to make it fluffier.

Since its flavour is so pronounced buckwheat flour is best used in moderation in certain recipes, perhaps in conjunction with other alternative flours. However stick to more neutral tasting lighter flours. Perhaps in a cake no more than 50% buckwheat flour might be used in the total flour percentage.

These Easter Cookies only have a small amount of buckwheat flour but it’s a perfect flour to use as the flavour balances well with the strong add-ons in the cookie such as the marzipan, chocolate and dried fruit.

These gluten-free Easter Cookies are loaded with spices, currants, marzipan and dark chocolate chips.

Can you use buckwheat flour by itself?

You certainly can. Buckwheat flour is one of the better know alternative flours since it has been used in very traditional recipes from all around the world and between the 18th-19th century had high levels of production. If you have come across it before it may have been in buckwheat blinis, which are yeasted pancakes from Russia or the French galette, a savoury pancake from Brittany and Japanese soba noodles.

If you are not making your own blinis, galettes or soba noodles then you must check the packet or ask the chef as due its delicate nature a lot of recipes which were originally made with buckwheat flour alone are now cut with wheat flour to stablilise the recipe as buckwheat flour can be hard to work with. However, if you are experimenting at home then by all means just use buckwheat flour, I have had very successful and delicious results with galettes only using buckwheat flour.

Maple Galettes with Wiltshire Ham and Gruyere

What flavours pair well with buckwheat flour?

Buckwheat flour can be fun to experiment with since it can completely change the profile of a recipe if used. Although you want to use it in recipes with flavours that can stand up to its intense earthy flavour.

Buckwheat flour pairs ideally with toasty flavours such as chocolate, coffee, caramel, nuts and spices. It also goes well with earthy flavours such as mushrooms, parsnips, squash and lighter fruits such as berries which provide a nice contrast.

overhead shot of buckwheat flour in a bag

Where can you buy buckwheat flour?

Buckwheat flour is very easy to get hold of and you can find it sold in most large supermarkets in the UK. However, always check the packet of your buckwheat flour as although the flour itself is gluten-free it is often processed alongside other flours so cross contamination can occur.

At the moment I am loving using Amisa Organic Buckwheat Flour GF. It has a beautiful flavour and soft texture.

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