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Gluten-Free, Nutritious Buckwheat and a Chocolate Cookie Recipe
What is Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is a nutritious and very useful grain substitute. Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t a type of wheat or even a grain. It belongs to the same family as rhubarb and doesn’t contain gluten. The fruits and seeds of the buckwheat plant have great health benefits for everyone, including people who have celiac disease or another gluten intolerance problem.
Buckwheat fruits are usually obtained from Fagopyrum esculentum, which is also known as the common buckwheat. Unlike grains, this plant has broad, heart-shaped leaves. It also has clusters of small flowers that are white or light pink in colour and have a pleasant scent. The fruit consists of a seed covered by a black hull.
Buckwheat is sold as whole fruits or as groats, which are the seeds with their hulls removed. Buckwheat groats are triangular in shape and have a green or light brown seed coat, depending on the type of buckwheat. The groats soften when boiled in water. Buckwheat is also sold as grits, which are groats that have been cut into pieces, and as a flour, which is made by grinding the seeds with their hulls or the groats without their hulls into a powder.
Uses of Buckwheat
Buckwheat grits are used to make a porridge. The groats are added to soups, stews or salads, just like rice or barley. Roasted buckwheat groats form a dish known as kasha, which is often eaten as a savoury porridge. The groats are also used to make a beer. The flour is used to make buckwheat bread, noodles and pancakes, which are very popular in some countries.
Bees that collect their nectar from buckwheat flowers produce a dark, flavourful honey that contains more antioxidants than most lighter honey types. Antioxidants may have a number of health benefits, including the prevention of cell damage by chemicals known as oxidants.
Some people sleep on a pillow filled with buckwheat hulls. The thought sounds uncomfortable, but proponents say that a buckwheat pillow helps to reduce neck pain.
Nutritional Value of Buckwheat
The protein level in buckwheat is higher than in most grains. In addition, buckwheat protein contains a good quantity of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need but are unable to make. In contrast, the protein in many grains is low in the amino acid lysine.
Buckwheat is rich in carbohydrate and is a good source of fibre. It provides us with a range of B vitamins (but not vitamin B12) and is a very good source of magnesium, manganese and copper. Buckwheat also contains a significant quantity of other minerals, including phosphorus, zinc, iron, potassium and selenium. In addition, buckwheat contains a small amount of fat. The fat consists of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in approximately equal amounts as well as a slightly lower amount of saturated fatty acids.
Like many plant foods, buckwheat does contain some substances that reduce absorption of its nutrients. Sprouting and cooking buckwheat seeds removes some of these anti-nutrients.
How to Make Kasha
Health Benefits of Buckwheat
Buckwheat delivers all of the health benefits of the nutrients that it contains. It may also be beneficial due to its other components, however. Like other plants, buckwheat contains chemicals known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients. One of the phytochemicals in buckwheat is rutin, which belongs to a family known as flavonoids. Rutin may strengthen the walls of capillaries, reduce hemorrhaging and lower high blood pressure. It may also act as an anti-inflammatory substance.
In addition, buckwheat may lower the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in the blood. Buckwheat is also being investigated for its ability to lower the blood glucose level and help people with Type 2 diabetes.
The preliminary research into the health benefits of buckwheat is very interesting, but more evidence is needed to confirm the results of this research. Some studies have been done on lab animals instead of humans and some evidence comes from only one research project. It's already known that buckwheat is a great food to add to the diet because of its nutritional content, though.
How to Make Sprouted Buckwheat Cereal
Buckwheat flour made from seeds with their hulls has a nutty taste. It has a dark colour and contains black flecks produced from the hulls. Scientists have found that the hulls contain valuable nutrients, including flavonoids, which we lose when the hulls are removed.
Light buckwheat flour is made from hulled seeds and has a more neutral taste and a more appealing appearance for some people. It contains beneficial nutrients, but not as many as dark buckwheat flour.
Some people prefer to mix dark buckwheat flour with other gluten-free flours in their recipes so that they get a texture, color or taste that they like. I often use a combination of dark buckwheat flour and sorghum flour, which is a nutritious and tasty mix. Like buckwheat, sorghum contains no gluten. Oat flour is a useful addition to the mix, too. It's important for people to buy an oat product that is guaranteed to be free of gluten if they have a problem with the substance.
If you have a serious gluten intolerance such as celiac disease, make sure that you check your flours to see if they are certified gluten-free by an independent laboratory. Grains and grain substitutes can sometimes become contaminated with gluten-containing grains while growing in the field, when placed in a storage facility which has recently stored grains containing gluten, or during processing of the grains into a flour.
Buckwheat Bread Recipe
Chocolate Cookies Without Gluten - Ingredient Benefits
I love all recipes that contain chocolate. Buckwheat flour works very well in chocolate cookies. I usually mix my buckwheat flour with sorghum flour, though. A combination of flours seems to work best when baking products that don't contain gluten. Potato, tapioca or corn starch mixed with the flours adds a light texture to the cookies and helps to maintain moisture.
Xanthan gum is generally considered to be the best substitute for gluten in gluten-free foods, since it provides the binding ability that flours without gluten lack. The gum is sold as a powder. A bag of xanthan gum is quite expensive, at least in my area, but since only a little is used in each recipe it lasts for a long time.
Xanthan gum is a natural substance made by a bacterium called Xanthomonas campestris when it ferments carbohydrates. The gum is used as a thickener in other products besides food without gluten. It's also used as a stabilizer in cosmetics to prevent the ingredients from separating,
I try to use healthier ingredients in my recipe like dark buckwheat flour, whole, unrefined sugar and shortening containing mainly unsaturated fats and no hydrogenated fats. If you mustn't eat any gluten, make sure that the baking powder, the shortening and the rice milk are gluten-free.
Cocoa Health Benefits
Cocoa has some interesting health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels. It's also believed to increase the level of HDL cholesterol in the blood. This type of cholesterol is healthy, as opposed to LDL cholesterol, which is potentially harmful if it reaches a high level in the blood. In addition, cocoa may improve our thinking skills. Cocoa that is rich in flavonoids has more health benefits than cocoa that is lower in flavonoids.
Although ingesting cocoa for health is a great idea, there is a problem with this idea. Products containing cocoa often contain lots of fat and sugar, which is definitely not healthy. In addition, the clinical trials with cocoa have often used a variety that is very high in flavonoids and not generally available to the public. The best that we can do is to buy the most natural form of cocoa that is available. Cocoa that has undergone the "Dutch" process tastes less bitter, but it also contains fewer flavonoids.
What are Flavonoids?
Flavonoids are a family of plant chemicals. Within this family are smaller subgroups, including one known as the flavanol group. Articles referring to the beneficial chemicals in cocoa may call them by their family name (flavonoids) or by their subgroup name (flavanols).
Ingredients for Vegan and Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies
This recipe produces about twenty soft cookies on a 17 inch by 11 inch baking sheet or cookie pan.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 cup brown sugar
I tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegan shortening
3/4 cup gluten-free rice milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
- Before making the cookie dough, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix the dry ingredients together.
- Mix the wet ingredients together.
- Mix the dry and wet ingredients.
- Place balls of dough on a nonstick baking sheet or cookie pan and slightly flatten the balls.
- Bake for fifteen minutes, but check the cookies after twelve minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for about five minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Buckwheat in my Kitchen
Buckwheat can be used for far more than making cookies. It's a versatile grain substitute that is a very useful addition to a kitchen. It's a great food for everyone, whether or not they are gluten intolerant.
I always have some form of buckwheat in my home, whether it's in the form of the intact seeds, a cereal or a flour. I appreciate both its taste and the nutrition that it provides.
Rutin and Cocoa Health References
© 2011 Linda Crampton