Wednesday, October 12, 2011

beechnut buckwheat bâtards (first ever?)

After spending a weekend at my sister's beautiful house up North, I came home with these:

Beechnuts! As a kid I would spend half the autumn crawling around the base of the beech tree behind our school, looking for beechnuts, peeling them on the spot and eating them raw. Quite disgusting actually. Later on in life it became apparent that it wasn't all that healthy either; there is a minute dose of cyanide present in the raw nut. I never suffered any ill effects, and no one ever did probably, because to get really ill you'd need to eat quite a lot of them.
The beauty of it all is that when dried and roasted, all those bad elements evaporate. This afternoon I roasted the batch of nuts that I collected, and was instantly taken back to my childhood.
I told my better half about the "Fabeltjeskrant" children show I grew up on, here in the Netherlands. That was my first encounter with beechnuts, and most likely the reason why, for a number of autumns we would be collecting them whenever we could. Beechnuts were sort of a running gag in this puppet show, set in a forest, with a wide variety of animals that all seemed to love "beukennootjes" (e.g. beechnuts) They ate beechnut cakes, -pies, drank beechnut drinks, I think they even paid each other in "beukennootjes"
Putting two and two together, I decided to google for breads made with these forgotten tiny nuts. It came back with almost zilch (there was one "recipe" that classified itself as "total fail", so I didn't pursue that one...). Slightly puzzled I went to the TFL search bar... surely here I would find...something? Nope, nada, nothing! So, I went where no one went before, or so it seems... Since I didn't have a whole lot of beechnuts, I toasted them, and used them as soon as I could in the final dough. They were wonderfully fragrant. I decided to mix the nuts into a buckwheat bâtard (with buckwheat levain).

The levain was a little sluggish, for my schedule forced me to retard it, and it wasn't really back on track when my "baking window" came up, but nevertheless, they turned out quite nice. The outside is hardly spectacular, nor is the crumb, but the taste combination of buckwheat and beechnut is enchanting! The "blander" nuttiness of the buckwheat formed a perfect stage for the very specific beechnut to shine. Even with only two hands full they came through in all their glory.

My sister has received strict orders to save as many beechnuts as she can; I want to make this bread better than it is. I hope you want to help me get it really right! The taste is there, but I think the bread itself... I don't know, yet...it's just not right yet.
Freerk

4 comments:

  1. What a lovely post! How I wish I could taste this fragrant bread...

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  2. Hello Freerk,

    I do collect beechnuts too. I use them in my biscuits, pesto, and breads. I will wait for your satisfy version before I adding more in my bread dough since I only have a couples ounces left in my freezer. I see you are already into beechnuts, do you want to try your hands on acorns too. I did prepare a batch of acorn pancakes, waffles, breads and dotorimuk (acorn jelly – I need to work on this recipes since they don’t fulfill my expectation). Here is the link about how to prepare acorn flour and also pancakes:

    http://www.greenphonebooth.com/2009/10/local-harvest-foraging-for-acorns.html

    http://www.ramshacklesolid.com/2008/09/making-acorn-flour.html

    Happy Baking,
    Kimmy

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  3. hey Kimmy and MC!

    I wish you could smell and taste it as well MC. It's rather strange that the beechnut has somehow become a "forgotten fruit" (technically it is a fruit and not a nut, if I understand it correctly)

    And Kimmy! What a wonderful connection! I did find out (via TFL) that in Japan beechnuts are called "mountain buckwheat" because they share the same shape (triangular and pointy on one side). Combining them makes so much more sense now :-)

    Acorns! I have been drinking acorn coffee, that was quite the thing somewhere in the mid eighties, and I know there is such a thing as acorn flour, but I never used it/seen it. This opens up a whole new area for me! I will check your links to see if I can get a hold of the acorn variety that is commonly used.

    Thank you so much for this info Kimmy, I might actually take my bike (I AM Dutch you know;-) and paddle to the forest to "get me some!)

    I will report back!

    If you have any pictures of your breads made with acorn/beechnut, and also the acorn jelly, I would LOVE to see!

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  4. wher can i buy some beechnut flour??

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