Learn the science behind:
Baking bread is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen since it’s a great way to experiment new recipes and involves plenty science and ingredients understanding. And the good thing is, we eat bread every day, but don’t eat cake every day, so there’s a lot more opportunities to experiment and try!
One of my new favorite breads is a walnut buckwheat bread, full of flavour and pretty easy to handle. It’s actually a great example of applying all sorts of knowledge and science that we discuss here on the blog, so we’ll do an extensive deep dive into walnut buckwheat bread! (Interested in the recipe? Scroll all the way down!)
Using buckwheat in a bread
Buckwheat flour is made from the seeds of a buckwheat plant. You might have seen it being used in pancakes for instance. Contrary to what you might expect, buckwheat isn’t a grain and it isn’t related to wheat for instance. Instead, the buckwheat plant is closer related to rhubarb! It belongs to the Polygonaceae family.
Buckwheat flour does contain a lot of carbohydrates, which is why it’s often used in similar applications as other flours. However, buckwheat doesn’t contain any gluten. When making bread though, gluten is what makes the bread able to hold onto air and form a flexible dough. Making a bread with just buckwheat flour, yeast, salt and water will give a very dense bread, not at all a nice light structure. Therefore you will generally not see breads made from only buckwheat flour, but more commonly a combination with wheat flour (which we do here as well). In this recipe just 15% of the flour is buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat and noodles
Buckwheat isn’t just used in pancakes and bread. Actually, in Japan buckwheat is used to make noodles. They’re called soba noodles in English and because of their lack of gluten they behave quite different than wheat noodles, although most recipes do use some wheat flour to help build strength. Saveur wrote a nice article on the art of soba noodle making.
Using (wal)nuts in a bread
Adding nuts and seeds to bread is a great way to add extra texture and flavour. To add even more flavour is by roasting them up front. You can do this for just about all nuts and seeds. Roasting nuts melts the fats in the nuts (which makes it easier to crush or cut them) and it browns the nuts. This browning reaction is caused by the Maillard reaction which is a complex series of chemical reactions resulting into both the brown colour as well as additional interesting flavours.
Another benefit of adding nuts and seeds is that you open up the dough structure a bit, since the nuts and seeds interfer with the dough. In a lot of recipes that actually helps the bread be lighter and more airy.
When you roast any nuts or seeds for use in a bread dough, always be sure to cool them down again though. The hot ingredients can kill the yeast in the bread, which you don’t want to happen. By adding them slightly warm you can accelerate proofing of the dough, which you might want.
Making the bread
This bread is made like most breads. You first knead the dough and than leave it to proof. During this time the yeast does its work by producing gas bubbles inside the dough. You then shape the dough and leave it to proof for another time. Again, the yeast will do its work and expand the dough. Last but not least you can make a nice pattern in the bread before you bake it in the oven. If you want you can give it an extra crunchy crust by placing a bowl of boiling water in the oven during the first 15 minutes of the bake.
Walnut buckwheat bread recipe
And to finish, of course, the recipe of the bread! The recipe is heavily inspired by one from Levine Doorne’s boek ‘Meer brood uit eigen oven‘ (a Dutch book).