Healthy baking using alternative flours and natural sweeteners looks difficult for most bakers but many of them do it with ease. I think it is just about keeping your mind open and trying new flavours with real ingredients and not artificial flavouring agents and texture enhancers. I am here with another Wednesday post for Home Baker's Guild discussing buckwheat and amaranth as ingredients for baking a couple of healthy bars and cookies with no added sugar.
Baking a granola bar and a cookie with buckwheat this time as I have always noticed that most families consume a lot of biscuits every single day. Many people start the day with a biscuit or a rusk along with their tea or coffee and keep having a couple of different types of biscuits in between meals as snacks when they get bored or just to accompany a cup of tea. So much so that even kids are fed biscuits as meals when they refuse to eat regular food. This needs to change. One must bake some alternative dry snacks at home or try and get them made by local bakeries. Once the commercial establishments know what you are looking for, they would see a business opportunity in it and such snacks will be easily available.
Baking granola bar using fresh fruit pulp and buckwheat groats and some coarsely powdered almonds is really easy. One of those recipes where you just mix everything and spread on the baking sheet before pushing the tray into the oven. Adding some natural sugar is optional, I have added a spoonful of honey in this bar as we like mild sweet snacks and not too sugary. A little grated jaggery will be good to add if you want it more sweet.
It will be good to know a few properties of buckwheat if this grain (pseudo grain) is new for you. Cooking with buckwheat and it's flour can be tricky if you don't realise it can be a slimy goop when cooked, here are a few clever ways to cook and bake with buckwheat.
- Buckwheat groats get a little slimy when soaked or cooked with water, roasting them before adding water helps if you want the groats cooked separately in pulao like recipes.
- Whole buckwheat is more suited for roasting the grains first and then cooking it with water to get cooked plump buckwheat that can be seasoned or dressed like a pasta. One can soak the buckwheat and cook with some more water and a little butter to get a pulao, rice or pasta like texture.
- Buckwheat flour gets really slimy when made into a batter with water, milk or buttermilk. It almost behaves like flaxmeal slurry but this property is useful in baking egg less cakes and breads. This buckwheat English muffin recipe works well even when you want a bread that bakes on a skillet.
- Because of it's sliminess buckwheat flour has a good capacity to bind ingredients. This peoperty can be used to add loads of grated vegetables or fruits to make pancakes of sweet or savoury type.
- Do not add liquids if you are baking cookies with buckwheat. The dough would result in hard cookies. Use lightly moist dates or figs that help binding along with butter and make the cookie dough.
Note that you can make your own buckwheat groats or buckwheat flour if you have whole buckwheat. Just run through a coffee grinder or spice grinder of a mixie for a second and you get groats. Grind it for about 2 minutes and you get a white fine powder. Buckwheat is a soft seed that powders quickly.
(makes about 20 bars)
buckwheat groats 200 gm (or run the whole buckwheat in blender for a second and use)
almonds 200 gm (coarsely powdered)
Fresh apricots seeds removed 180 gm
honey 1 tbsp or a little more
nutmeg powder a pinch
Pulp the apricots well along with the honey. You might want to use a little more honey of the apricots are tart.
Mix with the buckwheat groats and almond meal using hands and knead lightly to make a sticky dough. Adding the apricot pulp slowly works better, add a little more of the pulp if required as it depends on how ripe and juicy the apricots are.
Spread this mixture on silpat sheet or any nonstick baking sheet and pat to make a thin layer of the mixture (a little less than one cm). Use a flat spatula to keep the margins straight. Then mark the sheet to cut bars.
Bake in preheated oven at 160 C for 25 minutes. Take out the baking tray and invert the silpat on a large chopping board. Cut the bars as marked. Spread them again on the baking sheet and bake again on 150 C for 30 minutes or till they get firm and crunchy.
I have been working on many recipes of granola bars and cookies baked using alternative flours. Some are here on this blog and some more to come but the thing is, we rarely snack on these cookies and granola bars. These kind of cookies, bars and some roasted nuts are useful only when we travel to places where we have to trek or hike and carrying light weight dry food is convenient. At home we love to snack on fruits and some freshly cooked snacks like roasted nuts, a bowl of poha, jhal mudi or a sprouts chaat.
This granola bar using amaranth flour is also baked sometimes for everyday snacking.
Being ginger and jaggery rich, this amaranth bar is more suited for winters. Even the cookies with buckwheat that I am sharing now will be more suited for winters with war spicing. It would be great if you add bits of candied ginger ti the dough.
This cookie with buckwheat flour would surprise you in the way it looks and the way it tastes. Mildly spiced and pleasantly sweet and nutty, this cookie has not used any nuts in it. Add a little more butter to this cookie when baking for kids as with lesser butter (as in this recipe) the cookies are better suited for adults. Butter makes these cookies really crisp. Sticking some chopped nuts or poppy seeds on these cookies will make it more attractive for the kids as well.
This cookie dough is a very good base for tarts as well. Try that sometime to make gluten free fruit tarts for kids.
(for 20 small cookies(
I am giving cup measurements as the battery of my kitchen weighing scale died as I was making it.
buckwheat flour 1 cup
good quality soft dates (not sticky ones) 18
butter 1/4 cup
clove powder 1 pinch
nutmeg powder 1 pinch
ginger powder 1/4th tsp
Chop the dates and remove seeds.
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix well till it resembles bread crumbs or is the consistency of a tart dough. If you take a spoonful of mixture and apply pressure, it binds well.
Make small balls of this mixture, flatten all of them and arrange on a baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160 C for 25 minutes.
This cookie is dense but a nice nutty crunch with a hint of spice gives it a unique flavour. You might like to add some chopped dehydrated fruits like cranberries or candied peel to this cookie dough to make it more enjoyable for the kids. This is an easy almost 2 step recipe suitable for busy adults who bake in the night to save time. Yes I baked this cookie in the night.
You would know how tasty buckwheat can be if you use it the right way. There are many buckwheat recipes on my blog you can try once you start getting buckwheat in your pastry. Buckwheat has been used in our homes for centuries, more for fasting foods during navratri and other festivals.
So buckwheat is completely sattvic in vedic terms, tags like gluten free and low glycemic, high protein etc started being relevant only recently. And did you notice how apricots and dates make wonderful natural sweeteners?