Until recently, buckwheat was for me A Food of Novels—Levin eats buckwheat porridge in Anna Karenina—and A Food Others Cook —buckwheat crepes are served in the French stall at the Farmer’s Market. Buckwheat belonged in another territory, and that territory was not my kitchen. It’s not that I was averse to buckwheat flour; I simply never had the occasion or desire to use it.
That was until last week, when I received a pre-birthday gift from Sam: Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce. (Yes, this is the same Kim Boyce of Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie fame.) In Good to the Grain, Boyce introduces home bakers to a gamut of whole-grain flours, ranging from the familiar (whole wheat, oat, corn) to the obscure (teff, amaranth, kamut). Though the flours are whole-grain, the recipes are not designed to be healthy—they are designed to taste good. Looking beyond the ubiquitous all-purpose flour unveils a palette of new flavors and textures to incorporate into your baking. And lucky for us, Kim Boyce experimented with these whole-grain flours and perfected dozens of recipes, including these Poppy Seed Buckwheat Wafers.
Buckwheat flour is dark in color, and as I mixed the dough with my hands, I had flashbacks to making mud pies as a kid. Even the texture of these cookies is sandy, but it’s a sandiness derived from sugar, as with sables or shortbread. Butter, eggs and heavy cream create a buttery, rich flavor that is perfectly balanced by the nutty, earthy buckwheat. After the dough is shaped into logs, it is rolled in poppy seeds and sugar. Slice and bake all the cookies at once, or slice off a few at a time for freshly baked cookies all week long.
Make the Poppy Seed Buckwheat Wafers
Recipe from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce (p 84)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg yolks (reserve whites)
1½ cups buckwheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
6 ounces (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Egg whites from egg yolks above
- Measure the cream and egg yolks into a small bowl—no need to whisk—and set aside.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients. With your hands, squeeze the butter into the flour. After the butter is mostly blended in, add the cream and egg yolks. Continue squeezing the mixture until a crumbly dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface and, using the palm of your hand, smear the dough to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece of dough into a log that is 8 inches long and 1¾ inches wide, flouring the dough and work surface as needed. Chill the logs for 2 hours. If the dough is more lopsided than round, you can gently roll the dough again after 15 minutes or so.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and poppy seeds and pour onto a plate. Brush one log very lightly with the egg whites. (I find it easiest to stand the log on one end as I brush it.) Roll the log in the poppy seed mixture until it is covered. Repeat this process with the remaining log and chill while the oven is heating up, or wrapped in plastic for up to 5 days.
- Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the logs into ?–inch wafers. Arrange the wafers on the baking sheets.
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The wafers should be dark golden-brown, with a darker ring around the edge, and smell quite nutty. Cool the cookies on a rack and repeat with the remaining wafers.
- These wafers are best eaten the day that they’re made, but they’ll keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.