So the other day, I bought a small bag of Bob’s Red Mill organic cracked buckwheat (marketed as “creamy buckwheat”) thinking I would make porridge for breakfast and use the rest in a rustic bread. Maybe because I grew up eating buckwheat crêpes regularly, I have a huge fondness for blé noir (literally black wheat) as my grandmother used to call it (the other name being sarrasin) and as it is still called in half of Brittany and I was looking forward to a new buckwheat experience.
Well, I was disappointed: not only did the cracked buckwheat boil into a solid clump but it had no taste at all. To the point that it ended up in our little dog’s food bowl (she didn’t seem to mind, maybe because I added a non-inconsiderable amount of shredded chicken and sweet potatoes). In any events it had a very positive effect on her innards which had been rather scrambled because of her unbridled passion for sand crabs (we walk her on the beach most days and she treats it not only as her personal race track -which is good- but also as an all-you-can-eat sushi bar -which is less beneficial to her health).
Anyway I had buckwheat on my mind in a generally dispirited sort of way when French chef and pastry chef Philippe Conticini was invited on On va déguster, one of my favorite French weekly food radio shows, and I heard him describe, among other things, a topping he makes with buckwheat and hazelnut meal. Unlike the other recipes the chef shared on that day, this one was pretty simple and I jotted down the reference, thinking it could come in handy.
A few days later I got an interesting oat chocolate crumble recipe in my mailbox from Smitten Kitchen, a blog I love not only for its food but for also the verve, energy, humor and otherwise sheer New-Yorkishness of its author, Deb Perelman.
The recipe called for pears. That caught my attention. A dozen big organic pears had been ripening on the counter for the better part of two weeks and I knew they were about ready to eat. I was idly trying to remember if we had any oat flakes left over from the last time I made granola when the Conticini buckweat topping popped into my mind. Bingo!
Next thing I knew, I was caramelizing pears and grinding cracked buckwheat into flour. When all the ingredients were ready, I put the caramelized pears in an oven dish, covered them with a layer of unsweetened frozen raspberries, added dark chocolate chips and a generous sprinkling of buckwheat topping, and into the oven it went for about thirty minutes. I won’t lie by saying it came out gorgeous. In my experience, melted chocolate always looks iffy under a toasted surface but it smelled divine and tasted even better, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
For 5 or 6 people
For the fruit base
- 4 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
- 60 g sugar
- 60 butter
- 200 g frozen raspberries
- 1 teaspoon of corn starch
For the topping
(makes way more than you need for this recipe but can be refrigerated and used on other desserts or even on oatmeal or yogurt)
- 100 g buckwheat flour
- 50 g salted butter
- 50 g brown sugar
- 65 g hazelnut meal
- 2 generous pinches of fleur de sel (or regular coarse sea sal
Since Deb explains in details how to make the fruit base and the process is pretty straightforward, I won’t go over it again. As suggested, I added a teaspoon of cornstarch to the caramelized pears to thicken up the juices a bit. If you do that, remember to mix the cornstarch with some cold liquid first. (I took two tablespoons of pear juice out of the pan, added an ice cube until cool, removed the ice cube, mixed in the starch and put the whole thing back in with the pears.)
The recipe for the buckwheat topping being given in French, I’ll run it by you in English: basically all you have to do is mix the buckwheat flour, butter, salt and hazelnut meal in the food processor until you get a finely granulated powder, toast it for a few minutes in a frying pan until satisfyingly blonde and fragrant. Et voilà, you have a dessert that’s both reasonably healthful and decidedly decadent. Enjoy!