Buckwheat Crêpes w/Berries

by Maja Lukic


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I was hoping to post these in time for Pancake Day on Tuesday but it didn't happen. And that may be fine because, to be candid, I didn't grow up eating pancakes but I ate a lot of crêpes. (In Serbian/Croatian, they're called palacinke). Spread with plum or rosehip jam (or even Nutella), rolled up into pretty spirals, and -- this next part is a little tacky and very European -- dusted with powdered sugar, crêpes could stand in for breakfast, dessert, or an evening snack. 

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I mean, I don't even like powdered sugar. But the soft texture of the sweet crêpe, the light layer of jam or chocolate, and a fine dusting of delicate sugar are such fundamental elements of the thing I ate as a kid that, to me, powdered sugar is de rigueur when serving crêpes. Plus, the effect of a crêpe's lacy edge under a coating of white powder is achingly pretty. I think. 

I tried to split the difference here by picking up an organic/less-processed powdered sugar but, in the end, the texture was odd and it melted right away. (Which made for some quick photography work in between powdered sugar applications and futile attempts to keep blueberry preserves and sugar off my camera equipment. Do yourself a favor and use the real thing.). 

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The crêpes of my childhood were white milk/white flour/white sugar situations -- delicious but no longer acceptable, I think. And, so, I substituted almond milk for cow's milk and used buckwheat flour. Accordingly, these beauties are dairy-free and gluten-free. Of course, if you'd like to use dairy and all-purpose flour, you can still use this recipe. (See the notes below for modification tips). 

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The actual making of a crêpe requires a little practice but once you master it, the skill never leaves you. Expect to lose the first two, as well as the last one -- it happens to everyone. A perfect crêpe requires the right consistency of batter, the right oil, the right temperature, and the right skillet. This is what I've learned over the years: the batter needs to be slightly thicker than cream; annoyingly, nonstick skillets are best but if you have a dedicated crêpe pan, use that; the temperature should be just below medium, somewhere in the medium-low area, but you'll have to make adjustments as you work (I have a gas burner and I find myself drifting from low to medium and back as the crêpes cook); and I get the best results with avocado oil but any other flavorless oil will work. I won't lie, it's a little fussy, but once you get into a good groove, you can pretty much flip a whole bunch of crêpes in about ten minutes.

And, by the way, the secret for flavorful crêpes? I probably stole this from my mom but add a pinch of citrus zest to the batter. It makes a real difference. 

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Buckwheat Crêpes w/Berries (gf)

Makes approx. 10 crêpes

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk), plus extra to thin the batter

1/2 cup water

2 eggs

2 tbsp sugar, any variety

3 tbsp avocado oil (or other flavorless oil), plus extra for cooking

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1/2 orange

sea salt

toppings/fillings: fruit jam, fresh berries, powdered sugar 

Whisk the milk, eggs, water, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a medium-sized bowl. Add the buckwheat flour and whisk until no clumps remain. Whisk in avocado oil, a pinch of sea salt, and orange zest. 

Cover with plastic wrap and allow the batter to rest in the fridge for at least an hour but preferably overnight. 

When ready to cook, stir the batter again and add more almond milk to thin the batter to the consistency of heavy cream. You will need to thin it out again as you're cooking the crêpes. In general, I end up adding another cup of milk as I'm cooking. 

Heat a nonstick skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat. Add a few drops of avocado oil to lightly coat the bottom (go easy on the oil).

With a soup ladle, ladle in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of batter (depending on the size of your skillet). The trick is to move the skillet off the heat, ladle the batter into the center of the pan, and then gently tilt the pan in the air, allowing the batter to swirl and coat the bottom evenly in a thin coating.

Cook on the first side for about 30 seconds to a minute or until small bubbles appear and a lacy edge forms around the edge of the crêpe. With a heat-proof spatula, gently pry the edges loose and flip the crêpes over with your fingers. (Don't worry -- it's not that hot. If you're concerned, a fish spatula works well.). 

Cook on the second side for about 20 seconds or so. Slide onto a plate and cover with foil while you cook the remaining crêpes. Maintain the temperature at medium-low and add a few drops of oil in between each crêpe. 

To serve, spread with jam (or Nutella!), roll up into a spiral, and top with powdered sugar and fresh berries.

Make ahead: The crêpes can be prepared 3 days ahead. Store covered in the fridge. To reheat, warm each crêpe in a dry skillet over medium heat, a few seconds per side. 

Note: For savory crêpes, omit vanilla and sugar. If using regular all-purpose flour, reduce the milk to 3/4 cup. Cover the prepared crêpes so that they stay moist as they cool. Store buckwheat flour in the freezer.  


Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

by Maja Lukic


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It was only a matter of time before I got swept into the pumpkin spice madness of the season. Today, I am sharing a pumpkin muffin that would be a respectable addition to any holiday brunch or breakfast table. 

I have to confess that it took me a very long time to fully appreciate pumpkin puree and pumpkin-flavored treats. To be fair, up until a few years ago, my only associations with pumpkin were: a) the completely unnecessary Starbucks infusion of dairy, sugar, and artificial flavors known as the Pumpkin Spice Latte; and b) the trays of sugary, cracked pumpkin pies that regularly appeared at my local grocery stores around November 1 every year.

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But with age comes, I don't know, wisdom or at least something approximating wisdom. Having been exposed to some delicious pumpkin treats recently, I am now devoted to the sweet gourd. I do think that pumpkin benefits from a little chocolate (as do all things) so I often pair the two together. 

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And, so, this muffin -- the happy marriage of pumpkin, spices, walnuts, dark chocolate, and citrus makes for a perfect fall pastry. The walnuts lend a crunch, the chocolate chunks melt into rich, bittersweet ribbons throughout the batter, the spices are warm but not overwhelming, and it's all perfectly balanced with bright citrus notes. (The orange comes through nicely -- please don't leave it out). 

Do not let the long ingredient list put you off --  you probably have most of the ingredients at home and once you gather the various components, it moves fairly quickly. Also, you can substitute the individual spices with a few teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. 

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As for texture, this will not yield a very crunchy muffin top, unfortunately. The crumb is soft and incredibly moist. I have a strong aversion to dry or overdone baked goods so I err on the side of underbaking everything. If you prefer a drier or more "done" pastry, simply extend the baking time by a few minutes.  

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Buckwheat Muffins

Adapted from Gluten-Free Apple Banana Nut Muffins

Makes 12 

1 1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup buckwheat flour (not buckwheat groats) 

1 tsp baking soda

3 eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix/filling) 

1/2 cup organic maple syrup

1/8 cup unrefined coconut oil

1 orange (juice and zest)

1 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground allspice

pinch of ground clove

pinch of ground white pepper

1 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks  

1 tbsp chia seeds

a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a standard-sized muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, buckwheat flour, baking soda, and a pinch of salt. (Whisking means you don't have to sift the flours!).

In a separate bowl, combine the liquid ingredients: canned pumpkin, coconut oil, maple syrup, three beaten eggs, the juice and zest of an orange, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, a pinch of ground clove, and a pinch of ground white pepper. (If you're using whole peppercorns, two to three grinds of the pepper mill should do it.). 

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid batter, taking care not to overmix. 

Stir in the walnuts, chocolate chunks, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds. Allow the batter to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes or so.  

Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined muffin pan, filling each liner to the top (they will not rise much).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

The muffins will stay fresh wrapped in plastic on the counter for a few days. For long-term storage, wrap the muffins individually and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Notes: Both the almond flour and the buckwheat flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Instead of the individual spices, you can substitute 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix. For a less sweet muffin, decrease the chocolate chunks to 1/3 cup. It's a fairly soft, wet batter but if it seems too wet, add in some more almond flour. Conversely, if the batter seems too dry, add in a little bit of almond milk. Extend the baking time for a drier, crunchier muffin.