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Buckwheat is a great grain to work with. Except buckwheat is not a grain, it’s a seed, which is good news for folks limiting their gluten intake. But bread made only from buckwheat flour will have the density and texture of a brick. However, a mixture of 10% buckwheat and 90% white (wheat) bread flour will have produce a light crumb. What about the remaining gluten? Sourdough’s extended fermentation ensures that the existing gluten develops a lofty crumb structure while the sourdough cultures themselves significantly break down the gluten, making the bread a reasonable choice for those who are gluten-sensitive. With that said, it should be noted that commercially made sourdough bread may not be so tummy-friendly.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), a relative of sorrel and rhubarb, is cultivated for its seed. Because it is not a grain, it does not contain gluten.
But we did not create our Seeded Buckwheat Sourdough recipe to cater to gluten-sensitive diets. We created this recipe because buckwheat has a wonderful earthy, nutty flavor and produces baked goods with a beautiful pumpernickel color. We like the combination of buckwheat and caraway – the flavor most people associate with rye bread – but feel free to use your favorite seeds. This bread bakes rather dark so don’t be alarmed if it looks finished after only baking for half the required time.
- 670 g non-chlorinated water
- 2 tablespoons (~30 g) white vinegar
- 200 g levain
- 900 g white bread flour
- 100 g buckwheat flour
- 20 g salt
- 50 g olive oil
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- Additional bread and rice flour for dusting
- Cornmeal (~1 tablespoon)
You will also need the following pieces of equipment: digital kitchen scale, bench knife, large non-reactive container for bulk fermentation, tea towels, cast-iron or Dutch oven-type baking vessel (we use either an Émile Henry clay Dutch oven or a Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven), spray bottle filled with water, and a razor blade, ceramic knife or baking lame (it’s pronounced “lahm”, in case you were wondering).
Combine the water and vinegar and warm to around 80°F (25°C). Whisk in the levain. Separately, sift together the flours in a large non-reactive (plastic, ceramic, glass) container. Add the levain mixture to the flour and mix/fold until cohesive. The dough will be a bit sticky. Cover the container loosely and place in an unheated oven; this is a draft-free space and the slight heat from the pilot light will encourage the yeast. Let rest for 25-40 minutes.
Sourdough starter (left) and sourdough during bulk fermentation (right)
After 25-40 minutes rub half the salt on the surface of the dough and massage it in with half the oil. Flip the bread and repeat with the remaining salt and oil. Next, fold the dough onto itself (like closing an open book) with a spatula or bench knife four times: left to right, top to bottom, right to left, bottom to top. This doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a very gentle method of kneading which will maintain pockets of air and give your bread a nice crumb. Keep the dough in its container in the unlit oven and repeat this folding every 30 minutes for 2 hours. Sprinkle in the caraway seeds during the second folding. After 4 folding sessions (i.e., 2 hours) let the dough rest 1-2 hours.
After the bulk fermentation, remove the dough onto an unfloured surface and divide into two even portions with a bench knife. The unfloured surface will create tension which will allow you to gently shape the loaves (we use a silicone Silpat mat on my counter to create a neat work surface). Use the bench knife to fold the edges of the dough under itself just enough to create a taught surface. Cover with a heavily floured tea towel (you may want to dust the loaves with flour if your tea towel isn’t completely saturated with flour) and let rest 20-30 minutes on the counter.
Flour your work surface. With the help of your bench knife, very gently pull the right side of the dough out and fold to the middle of the dough. Perform the same folding technique as you did during bulk fermentation: left to right, top to bottom, right to left, bottom to top. Use the bench knife to fold the edges of the dough under itself, shaping the boule as you go. Repeat with other dough portion. Dust loaves with a 50/50 mixture of rice flour and bread flour.
Place a heavily floured tea towel in a bowl roughly the same shape as your baking vessel. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of cornmeal over the towel. Gently flip your boule into the bowl so that the folded-under bottom is now the top. Don’t worry that it is wrinkly and looks misshapen: you will flip the dough once more before baking. Sprinkle the remaining cornmeal over the dough and drape the overhanging towel on top of the boule. Let rest 3-4 hours on your counter or unlit oven (or 8-12 hours in the refrigerator).
Thirty minutes before the bench rest is complete, remove the rising bread from the unlit oven and preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) with your baking vessel(s) inside. When the oven is completely preheated, carefully remove the vessel and take of its lid. Fold back the tea towel from the rising dough and gently flip the bread inside the hot vessel (the bottom is once again the top). Quickly make deep slashes into the surface of the bread with your razor blade. This will allow steam to escape while baking which will create a better texture and hey, it looks great, too. Mist the surface of the bread with the spray bottle and sprinkle additional caraway seeds over its surface. Place lid back on the vessel, place the vessel in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 450°F (232°C). After 20 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove vessel from oven and immediately place bread on a wire rack. Be patient: allowing the bread to cool completely before slicing will ensure a perfect texture. If you have only one vessel, begin baking the other boule.