Strawberry buckwheat loaf
I’m so happy it’s strawberry season here in the Ohio Valley. Bright containers of ruby berries at the farmers’ markets stand out among the long stretches of crispy greens, irresistible in their allure.
Strawberries always inspire a fit of spring baking, like no other ingredient can. This year, bored at the thought of my standard shortcake recipe, I was in the mood to experiment. I wanted something pound-cakey, but gluten-free. I had recently reorganized my pantry (again — it seems never ending, that task) and (re)discovered a good portion of cornmeal and whole buckwheat groats. Ideas began to form.
I had recently read that freshly ground, raw buckwheat groats makes for a much tastier, mild flour that the buckwheat flour you purchase prepared, which can lean towards to the bitter side due to the toasting it undergoes. (Toasting can add amazing flavor, but it’s a fine balance — rich nuttiness vs. bitterness — that manufacturers don’t always successfully strike.)
Also, if you’re gluten-free for serious health reasons, you have to carefully choose your prepared buckwheat flours, which are often processed in non-GF facilities. Bob’s Red Mill, for example, does not produce GF buckwheat flour (organic, yes; GF, no), but they do sell GF groats.
With this mix of gluten-free flours, I was wanting a loaf with the texture of cornmeal, the nuttiness of buckwheat, and the moistness of pound cake. Score! (I love when that happens.) I’ve said this before, but I’m so impressed with the progress that gluten-free baking has seen in the last couple of years. Adventurous folks continue to discover the best flours and formulas for GF baking, and generously share their knowledge. (Grind your own raw buckwheat groats for a marvelous GF flour — whoddathunk?)
Oh, and the chunks of strawberries … they create delectable little pockets of strawberry jam with every bite. Serve like a shortcake, with a generous scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt, and more freshly sliced strawberries on top (if you want to get all fancy-pants about it, macerate the strawberry slices with a bit of sugar (or maple syrup) and balsamic vinegar for a few hours before serving). Or, to send it right over the top, drizzle the top of the loaf with a sweet lemon glaze, while it’s still warm from the oven.
This isn’t a health loaf — hello, sugar — but it’s full of sweet personality with a touch of nuttiness thrown in.
Strawberry Buckwheat Loaf
- 1 scant cup raw buckwheat groats
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose mix (I used Pamela’s artisan flour mix)
- 3/4 cup raw sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1 heaping cup strawberries, quartered
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5″ pan, and line it with two long strips of parchment paper, one in each direction (they’ll serve as handles to easily lift out the loaf, later).
- Grind the buckwheat groats to a fine texture in a blender or mill (the groats are soft; you shouldn’t have any problem with a standard blender). Measure out 3/4ths of a cup and discard the rest (or save for another purpose). Add the buckwheat flour, cornmeal, and GF all-purpose flour to a large bowl, along with the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. Use a wooden spoon to fold the wet ingredients into the dry, until just combined (don’t overwork the batter). Gently fold in the strawberries, distributing them throughout the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and level. Sprinkle sugar lightly over the top. Arrange additional sliced strawberries on top, if desired.
- Bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean and the crust is golden (to be safe, begin checking at 50 minutes). To ensure an even baking, rotate the pan every 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes. Use the parchment handles to gently lift the loaf from the pan. Place on a cooling rack, and cool completely before cutting (use a serrated knife for the cleanest cuts).