I wrote some time ago about my paternal grandmother and her buckwheat cakes. My father said that she kept a buckwheat starter going all the time. After I published the recipe for buckwheat pancakes, I got comments from people who had old fashioned buckwheat cake recipes. I still have not tried the one that sounds most like my maternal grandmother’s recipe. It goes like this:
“….true Old Fashioned buckwheat cakes…are made by creating a starter. You lay them up every night. No milk, no grease. Only buckwheat flour and water to start the starter, unless you have saved some. When you are ready to eat them you dissolve baking soda in boiling water to the pitcher. Stir until it settles down a bit then cook on cast iron griddle.”Karen Chearney
I emailed her, and Karen gave me some more specific instructions:
“Unfortunately, I do not have a written recipe. My mother used yeast to start hers and she doesn’t use a recipe either. Her basic ingredients to start are: Buckwheat flour, water, pinch of salt and a spoonful of sugar and about a half pack of dry yeast.
I have started mine before with a little yeast , but I normally use my starter I have in the fridge (it’s name is Earl, lol) I basically pour about 1/4 cup of starter in the pitcher and add almost equal amount water and buckwheat flour (usually a little more flour than water). I leave this set at least 2 days and “lay it up” every evening. Laying it up is just adding a bit more flour and water. Letting it set a few days will give it a sour taste that is characteristic of buckwheat cakes. The day I want to cook them, I use a heaping spoonful of baking powder and scald that in a cup with boiling water (the amount of water I use is also dependent on how thick my batter is and if I want to thin it a bit. I pour this into the batter and stir it in. (Be careful it will foam up). Let it settle a minute or two then bake on a cast iron griddle.
I am sorry I have no measurements. I just wing it. Lol. Mine even varies from my mothers and she also does not measure.”
Karen talked about the difficulty getting good buckwheat flour, and listed a couple she had found: “I actually picked up 2 bags last time I was back home. Burnt Cabins Grist Mill LLC is where mine comes from. Or Stanton Mills. Not sure if you can find either of those but they are good, old fashioned flours.”
I found Arrowhead Mills gluten-free Buckwheat Flour in my grocery store, but I still have not experimented with the yeast-version. BECAUSE…..along came Buckwheat Banana Bread–a totally luscious sweet bread that verges on cake. And that is the story just below this one. [Please let me know if you try Karen’s buckwheat cakes–making your own “Earl.”]
Thanks so much to Karen, and I look forward to this more authentic old-style buckwheat pancake.