Friday, 19 December 2014

Making Buckwheat Noodles

Or, as they are often known, soba noodles, since they are pretty much a Japanese delicacy. Or are they? I discovered an Italian dish made with buckwheat noodles a little while ago; who knew? Well, besides the Italians, of course. Since I had bought a bag of buckwheat flour on a whim a little while ago, it seemed noodles were in my future.

Most recipes, European or Asian, call for a ratio of 4 parts buckwheat flour to 1 part wheat flour. I tried making a gluten-free version, and it worked well enough but it was definitely harder to work with than the version with wheat. Still, it was fine; just don't expect to cut it into long thin strands, but something shorter and more rustic. The wheat version was much easier to roll out, and I liked the finished product better too, but then I can eat wheat without trouble if I am careful.

I am calling for specific amounts of water, but they are starting amounts. One thing that was clear when I was researching recipes is that the amount of water required will vary, perhaps quite a bit, depending on what flour you have. Seasonal fluctuations in rain affect the absorbtive qualities of flour, as does the milling, and how much hull is left in the flour. The important thing is to add water until you have a smooth, easily pliable but not sticky dough. Also, I suspect a finely milled flour will yield better results than a coarsely ground flour.

4 servings per recipe
Allow at the very least an hour; it's the kind of job you pick away at
Also, best made in advance

Gluten Free Noodles:
2 cups buckwheat flour, plus a little more
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 cup boiling water, perhaps a little more

Regular Buckwheat Noodles:
1 2/3 cups buckwheat flour, plus a little more
1/3 cup soft unbleached OR all-purpose wheat flour
3/4 cup water

In either case, put the flours into a small mixing bowl, and stir in the water. Once it is mostly mixed with the spoon, I found it easiest to turn it out onto a clean counter or board, and knead it a bit. You will most likely need to add a bit more water, spoonful by spoonful, to achieve the right texture. If you overdo it, or if your dough is sticky from the start, add flour in the same way. The resulting dough, as noted, should be smooth and easily pliable, but not sticky.

Be careful if you are making the gluten-free noodles; the boiling water will cool off rapidly once it is in the flour, but not so rapidly that you could not burn yourself by starting to knead it too soon.

Once the dough has been mixed and kneaded, leave it for 20 minutes to an hour before rolling it out. Keep it covered with a damp cloth, or wrapped in parchment paper or plastic.

I find it easiest to roll out on a sheet of parchment paper; a well floured board would do. Roll it quite thin. I then trimmed off the rough edges to make neat rectangles, and cut the edges into short rustic noodles. Cut the dough into noodles of the size and shape you like; in either case shorter noodles (up to 6" long) will be easiest to deal with. Lightly flour the sheets of dough before stacking them to cut noodles, so they don't stick to each other. Letting the rolled out dough sit for a little while before cutting will also help.  Once cut, the noodles should be left to dry out a little more.

Once made, the noodles should be cooked in plenty of boiling water. Whether you add salt or not is up to you. The Japanese traditionally don't add salt, but they also usually would be serving them with soy sauce or other very salty soy products, I would think.

The cooking time will depend on how thinly the noodles are rolled; mine took 6 to 7 minutes, but I would start testing them as soon as 4 minutes if you have manage to get them very thin, or expect to leave them as long as 10 to 12 minutes if they are very thick. 

I served my first batch with my favourite Ginger-Peanut Sauce. That was actually half a batch of noodles, to a full batch of peanut sauce, and that was a bit too much sauce. One batch of sauce should do one batch of noodles. These were the gluten free noodles, and I cooked them with some cabbage, carrots and leeks, drained them, then returned them to the pot with the sauce until it was well mixed in.

I use that sauce mostly on vegetables, and I found that on noodles I wanted to add a bit more soy sauce to sharpen it up. I also left out the allspice and green peppercorns, and added a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some toasted sesame oil instead.

Last year at this time I made Caramel Popcorn.

No comments: