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Mar 25, 2013 09:17 AM

Cooking Toasted Buckwheat

I recently went gluten-free and am attempting my first buckwheat-based salad. I bought toasted buckwheat at my health food store in the bulk section, and, based on internet research, I thought that I was supposed to cook it for 15 - 20 minutes, 1 parts buckwheat to 2 parts water. After less than 5 minutes, most of it was a mushy, oatmeal-like texture. Is this normal? Could I possibly have gotten an instant buckwheat? Did I do something wrong.

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  1. It wasn't instant, that's ground buckwheat. The problem is the groats you bought. For some reason, kasha from the US is much more delicate than the Eastern European variety - it tends to get mushy & starchy really quickly. You'll have much better luck with a product from Russia or Ukraine. Any chance you have an Eastern European market nearby?

    5 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      ghg, can you speculate on the reason for this? In my cranial Way Back Machine, I recall not having problems with the kasha groats I purchased, but recently I have had the same mush problem. Is the issue a different variety of buckwheat, or is it a toasting issue? The groats I have currently are toasted (Middle Eastern market) and still cook mushy; in the past, I've oven roasted my own and not had that problem...but then again, I don't remember the source/provenance of those groats. Do you think additional toasting could solve the mush problem? I do have a Russian market accessible; anything in particular to look for other than just a toasted kasha?

      1. re: cayjohan

        There are a number of buckwheat varieties, and the variety grown does differ across regions. So yes, I think that's a factor. If you examine it closely, you might also notice that the US buckwheat tends to have a lot of broken pieces or partial kernels. Those bits cook much faster & contribute to the mush effect. If it's already toasted, it probably won't help to dry-toast it further, but coating it with a beaten egg first and then toasting it does help. The egg forms a protective layer which helps keep the groats from clumping together.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Ah, good advice on looking for broken groats. I've read about the egg technique but never tried it, largely because I was a little afraid I would end up with mushy kasha in scrambled eggs! But it might work for my intention: I'm trying to get nice, separate, cooked-but-not-mushy buckwheat grains to add to a broth soup just before serving, and the egg would not necessarily interfere with the outcome/flavor I envision. I might have to finally give that technique a go.

          I've started to consider steaming as a possible option - in cheesecloth, as one would do couscous. My thinking is that might do an end run around mushiness (she says not having tried it yet!), especially if the groats were then spread out on a sheet afterward to "dry" a bit. Ever try anything similar? In reading the OP's need for a salad-worthy groat, it occurred to me that might be a possible avenue. Thoughts?

          1. re: cayjohan

            Hmm. I guess the cheesecloth/colander steaming method is doable, but I imagine it would take a *really* long time, and I'm not sure how long you'd need to pre-soak the groats. You have to remember that couscous is pasta made from refined starch, so it absorbs steam more readily. Groats are whole seeds, and even though the outer hull has been removed they still have the protective seed coat. Think about rice & quinoa - even when you "steam" them, you're actually cooking them directly in liquid.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I had to try...and the steaming actually worked! Report below!

    2. Using the egg strategy, a couple of things to pay attention to in order to get separate, fluffy kasha:

      1) mix the beaten egg in with the uncooked buckwheat till no egg is visible. Put this in a cold skillet with a heavy bottom (cast iron pan is good) put the heat to low/medium and toast, stirring from time to time to separate the grains. When there's a nice toasty smell and no stickiness or visible glossiness, you're ready for step two

      2) pour BOILING liquid over the kasha in its skillet--water, stock, whatever you're using. It will sputter--stand back! Clamp a lid on, adjust the heat so you have a nice steady simmer--not a volcanic boil. Leave covered, don't stir--lift the lid in 10-15 minutes to check if liquid's been absorbed.
      When liquid's been absorbed and kasha is tender, turn off the heat and let sit covered for about ten minutes, then mix in desired fats/mushrooms/onions etc.

      Should be discreet and perfect.

      1. Report on steaming whole buckwheat groats:

        Woo-hoo, it worked! I rinsed about a cup of groats, then wrapped in a pouch of cheesecloth and into a colander over boiling water. My thought was to give it about a half-hour. At 45 minutes, the groats *tasted* cooked (as in not tasting raw), but were still more than a little leathery on the exterior. Reason: Cay's revolving door was in action and with distraction I had let the water pot boil dry. (sigh) More water added, and within 15 minutes after that, perfectly separate cooked groats! No mush. No sticking. Perfect grains, with about, say, a little better than half the groats "opened up" but not waterlogged in the least.

        There is definitely a buckwheat salad on the menu tonight! I love it when experiments actually pan out!

        3 Replies
        1. re: cayjohan

          Here's a photo of the final result. I am very, very happy with the outcome!

          1. re: cayjohan

            That's awesome. You only rinsed them, no soaking? I'm amazed it didn't take longer. Hooray for new discoveries!

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Just rinsing, a rather good one, but that's just the way I am. ;)

              As for time, nota bene: When I checked at 45 minutes, the water pot had already boiled dry, and had been for *quite* some time (it's been a while since I've focused on steaming, k? grin). My guess is this: it's not a quick process, but with better attention paid to water levels than I had, the whole thing should take 45 minutes or less. I might toy around with a short soak of the groats to see how that affects the time. I'd make my decision on texture over time, I think, based on today's results; the time, however ignored and misappropriated (hah!), was worth the texture.

              Also, though I speculated I might, I did not spread the groats out on sheet pans to dry; they were quite separate coming right out of the steam, and even upon upon sitting in the cheesecloth bag as I did other things. Sturdiest groats I've had in a long time, or really, ever. Ever. This technique is a keeper for me. Just. Right.

        2. sw79
          In an effort to broaden my non-gluten diet, I also bought some toasted buckwheat groats. I cooked them according to a site I found with a search which is basically the same as your recipe, but what I did was; Boil water, add groats, cover and low-boil for 13 minutes, then take off the heat and without taking the cover off, let them sit for 10 minutes. Mine didn't turn out mushy. I had a bowl for breakfast, but didn't really care for them that way.

          I tried a small amount without cooking with a little maple syrup and rice milk. I liked them better that way. Nice and crunchy and the nutty taste really stood out that way.