For no particular or at least identifiable reason Saturday evening, I wanted to make some buckwheat biscuits. Probably the thought of having buckwheat biscuits Sunday morning was behind the motive. Underlying the specific thought of buckwheat biscuits in particular was the fact that buckwheat flour was the only sort of flour we had in the house. Gluten-free flour comes in a lot of stupidly expensive boutique varieties, but I just buy bulk buckwheat flour at Rosauer’s, an otherwise fairly stupidly expensive boutique supermarket where I hate to shop, largely because it is apparent that their parking lot was designed by a group of starving auto body shop entrepreneurs.
Buckwheat, by the way, is a dicot, not a grass, and so unrelated to wheat, but fairly closely allied to rhubarb.
I had no idea how to make biscuits and I have no cookbooks because I don’t like them, so I looked up a recipe for buckwheat biscuits online. The first four promising-looking entries were nothing but link farms with no recipes. But eventually I landed on an honest person’s recipe for actual buckwheat biscuits.
The recipe called for 2 cups of “featherlight flour mix,” which is probably a blend of gluten-free flours that typically include potato, corn, and/or tapioca starch to bind the ingredients in place of gluten. I didn’t have any featherlight, so I substituted buckwheat flour, which has no binding agent at all. After all, I wasn’t making the biscuits to sell at Starbucks or something.
The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of guar gum or 3/4 teaspoon xanthum gum. I had guar gum! I had six bags of it. In went a teaspoon of guar gum that had waited two years to find its purpose in life. I am not a hoarder of guar gum. I have an entire case of guar gum for the same reason I have 100 coconut mango oolong teabags: Amazon Free Super Saver Shipping. Sometimes you buy a little more of something than you need. Sometimes you buy something you hadn’t thought of needing at all, in order to get something else you do need shipped free. Free shipping can be a powerful motivator; I suspect it is the bedrock of the Amazon empire.
The recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Check.
The recipe called for 1 tablespoon of baking powder. I didn’t have any of that, but I had a 10-pound bag of baking soda, which is not attributable to Free Super Saver Shipping, but to its usefulness for multiple household purposes. It’s locally available, it lasts forever, and we have room for it. So I used a tablespoon of that instead. The biscuits rose sufficiently and the soda didn’t mar the taste perceptibly.
The recipe called for 1/2 cup of shortening. I used butter because I had it.
The recipe called for 2/3-3/4 of a cup of milk or milk substitute. I used 2/3 of a cup of coconut milk because I had it.
The recipe called for the dry ingredients to be whisked in a medium bowl until well blended. Then it dictated that the shortening be cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives, after which I was given to understand that the mix should look like coarse crumbs. Okay, whoa. First, I only have a large mixing bowl, designed in Italy and manufactured in New Zealand. So I used that. Second, I was more interested in cutting some of these nonsensical little steps involving pastry cutters and knives, so I combined the ingredients with a silicone blade-like tool that I have, and my hands, until the ingredients were well blended.
The recipe then said to add the milk a little at a time and mix until it all formed a ball. I knew from experience that this instruction was reasonable, so I followed it without significant deviation. Then I formed a ball of tractable dough with my flour-dusted hands. My husband opened the pantry door for me and took the flour back out so that I wouldn’t have to do these things with my well buttered hands. Ordinarily, there is nothing too clinically obsessive in putting things away before you are quite finished with them.
Finally, I divided the dough into 12 small balls. I didn’t have a cookie sheet, but my ungreased 9×12 Corning baking dish worked fine. I flattened the little balls somewhat and consigned them to my pre-heated 425° oven. 14 minutes later, just as the recipe said, my biscuits were done.
We had them with breakfast and with lunch. They were sliceable and also crumbly in the way biscuits ought to be. They were tasty with butter or tahini and raspberry jam. A well-conceived impulse, all in all.