Pseudocereals are plants that produce starchy fruits or seeds, which can be consumed as such or after milling into flour. In that sense, pseudocereals are similar to cereal grains. However, the two families are botanically unrelated since the first aren’t grasses like true cereals. Representative pseudocereals are quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. The latter despite its name has no connection whatsoever with wheat. It’s a flowering plant that produces grain-like seeds, which have a characteristic triangular shape, and a green or pale brown color.
The consumption of buckwheat, as wells as other pseudocereals, has been increased in the last years primarily because it doesn’t contain gluten, while still being a good source of starch, fibers, proteins, and micronutrients. It can be cooked as whole seed to make porridge, but most typically is used in several preparations after being milled into flour, which has a characteristic earthy and nutty aroma. For instance, pancakes made with buckwheat flour are traditional in several countries, like the blinis in Russia or buckwheat galettes in France.
Even though it lacks gluten, buckwheat flour is used also as the main or even sole ingredient to make noodles and pasta. These preparations are made only by hand and require particular skills because the dough is pretty fragile and sensitive to handling. The best known worldwide is maybe the soba noodles (soba means buckwheat in Japanese), a food with deep tradition and cultural importance in Japan.
Another typical example is Italy, a country with great pasta tradition, where buckwheat appears in the form of pizzoccheri, which look like short tagliatelle, and are typical in the Valtellina region, in the north part of the country.
Now, what about buckwheat and bread?
Traditionally buckwheat flour isn’t used as main ingredient in breads due to its lack of gluten strength. It makes more sense with such flour to make pancakes rather than attempting bread loaves. However, lately with the increase of the gluten-free bread culture, buckwheat found also its way into the world of bread.
A bread dough assembled solely with buckwheat flour can be mixed and worked only as a cake batter, and no matter what, the bread will come out very dense. If still, your aim is to stay gluten-free you can try to learn appropriate techniques plus to add other components to the recipe that can give the bread a more pleasant consistency.
But if you care only to incorporate some buckwheat character to your bread, then you can easily include in your recipe buckwheat flour as a minor component, keeping wheat or any other gluten-containing flour as the main constituent.
If you do so, it’s a good practice (as always when using a new flour with unknown baking properties) to try first including a small amount of it in the flour mix, something like 10-20%. This proportion can already deliver some of the buckwheat flavor but it won’t change much the dough behavior and the structure of the baked bread. As soon as the percentage of buckwheat flour increases to values more than 20% its effect in the dough consistency will become gradually evident.
The more buckwheat flour you add to the dough, the more gluey and difficult to handle it becomes. Therefore, I recommend also keeping the dough constantly inside the mixing bowl and work it minimally with only a few sets of stretch-and-folds using a wet hand so as to avoid having the dough sticking too much.
In the bread that I’m presenting here, I went up adding 50% buckwheat flour, which I feel being the upper limit to obtain a dough, which even though is gluey, it can still be worked by hand. If you’re a beginner though, I would recommend starting first with a smaller percentage of buckwheat flour as to get better the feeling of it and make your life easier.
Another method that I employ when I prepare a dough with limited gluten strength as this one is to use a loaf tin for proofing/baking the bread. The tin supports and prevents a weak dough from spreading out, which it'll happen if you try to bake the same dough free-standing.
This type of bread coming out from a loaf tin is much more enjoyable since it has enough height and volume as to be cut into slices with a large surface area that easily accommodate spreads and toppings.
50% Buckwheat Sourdough Bread with Linseed
Baked in a loaf tin (26x12x7cm)
250g buckwheat flour
250g bread wheat flour*
100g active sourdough**
50g linseed (flax seeds)
* the recipe contained wheat flour type 1050 (based on the German flour classification), but any bread wheat flour (white or whole grain) can be used the same way
** the same flour blend was used to feed and activate the sourdough starter
- Add into a bowl the two types of flour and the water. Mix very well with a spatula or by hand until flour is fully hydrated. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for an hour.
(The formed dough should be relatively sticky and gluey)
- Add the sourdough and the salt, and pinch them into the dough. Work a bit the dough by hand, until it looks uniform and the sourdough is fully incorporated.
(When dough gets too sticky wet slightly your hand)
- Add the linseed, and incorporate them evenly by stretching and folding the dough using a wet hand.
(Do this in 3-4 steps by letting each time the dough relax for 20min)
- As soon as the seeds are evenly mixed into the dough, cover the bowl and let the dough ferment at room temperature for a total of ca. 3 hours, or until it’s risen slightly.
(The exact time depends on the room temperature. You want your dough to start rising a bit but not too much, it’ll finish rising later into the loaf tin)
- Carefully scrape out the dough onto a very well-floured surface and as simply as possible shape it and place it into a loaf tin layered with baking paper.
(Use plenty of flour and try not to manipulate the dough too much because it will start to stick)
- Cover the tin and let the dough rise for another couple of hours at room temperature.
(Be careful not to let the dough over-ferment. Poke the dough with your finger and feel that is still slightly springy)
- Bake the dough in a pre-heated oven at 220°C for 50-60 min.
- Wait for the bread to cool down for at least a few hours before slicing.