Buckwheat Sourdough Starter (recap)

Some of you may recall my Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes from a couple of years back. I didn’t keep up with the starter after a while (I’m the only one who likes buckwheat cakes around here), but recently made the starter again, this time with the idea of using it for other things. So, I’m reposting a more concise version of the instructions for making the starter — just the starter — today. In the next two weeks I’ll post some other yummy things you can make with it, besides the  Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes.

Organic buckwheat flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 cups slightly warm water
1 Tbls buckwheat honey (or other honey)

20150528_102458You will need 4 cups of buckwheat flour total for the first week, just to create and feed the starter, more if you make buckwheat cakes with it at the end of the first week. I usually buy two packages Bob’s Red Mill organic buckwheat flour at a time when I’m shopping.

I began the starter on a Monday and “fed it” as follows Tues-Friday, so that it’s ready to use by the weekend. Choose whatever timing works best for your household.

Day 1: In a glass bowl or other non-reactive container (not metal!), dissolve 1 pkg of active dry yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Stir in 1 Tbls honey, then 1 cup buckwheat flour. Leave the starter in the glass bowl, lightly covered, either with plastic wrap or a lid not fastened down, in a dim room.

Day 2: (The day after you mixed up the starter.) Stir well, then remove and discard 1/2 cup of the starter. Add 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir well.

Day 3: Same as day 2

Day 4: Same as day 2

Day 5: Same as day 2

Day 6: Remove 1 cup of the starter and set aside to make buckwheat cakes or to use in baking. Add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup warm water to the remaining starter mixture. Cover the remaining starter mixture (a lid works better than plastic wrap) and refrigerate.

20150528_102622You will not touch the starter again for another week when you will once again remove 1 cup of the mixture for buckwheat cakes or baking and add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup water. Do this every week.

The starter must be tended weekly, removing some and feeding with more flour and water. If you don’t want to make up something using part of the buckwheat starter ever week, just discard what you remove and feed as directed. (If you neglect the starter it will get nasty. Throw it out and make a fresh batch. It only takes five days until a new batch is ready to use, so don’t fret if your starter dies. It happens.)

A well-tended starter will develop a wonderful spongy, almost mousse-like texture over time. Don’t worry if feeding and making/baking doesn’t work out to exactly one one week: it won’t hurt anything to wait an extra day to feed the starter and use what you remove. Because I have more time for cooking and baking on the weekend, I set my starter up to be ready to go on a Saturday…and if Saturday is too busy, I use it and feed it on Sunday. You can let it slip a day here and there. The main thing is that you need to tend it weekly. Work out when to make the starter according to the rhythm of your daily life and when you’d be most likely to use it.

Next week: Buckwheat Sourdough Muffins!

Boyfriend Pancakes

boyfriend pancakes

Just in time for Pancake Day (aka Shrove Tuesday), here’s my boyfriend’s recipe for pancakes.  I use the word recipe loosely here because, although I’m sure some of the ingredients are consistent with each making, I have never seen a measuring cup or spoon appear whilst these pancakes are being prepared.  Try the basic recipe once, and I’m sure you’ll find lots of ways to play around with this recipe and adjust it to your own taste.


1 cup flour (stone ground buckwheat, whole wheat, or brown rice flour have all been used and I can attest to their suitability)

1-2 cups quick-cooking oats

5 ml (1 tsp) baking soda

5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder

Pinch of Herbamare (a sea salt, vegetable, herb, and spice blend)

Squirt of olive oil

Squirt of agave syrup

Juice of one lime

As much fresh or frozen berries and/or dried fruit as you like

One mashed banana (as egg replacement)

Almond, soy, or rice milk.

Sift the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, and other dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add the mashed banana, lime juice, fruit, and milk, stirring to the consistency of a typical pancake batter.  Make sure your pan is hot before adding the batter.  The pancakes can be cooked in coconut oil or Earth Balance buttery spread.  Cook until brown on top and bottom.

NOTE:  If using frozen fruit, you may find the middle of the pancake takes longer to cook through even though the top and bottom has browned sufficiently.

Top with topping of your choice:  Earth Balance buttery spread, agave syrup, maple syrup, molasses, etc.

You can pretty much add what you like to this recipe.  Boyfriend has used the lime juice (or not), the olive oil (or not), and the coconut oil (or not).  All were terrific.  He’s also been known to add dry vanilla rooibos tea for extra flavour.  Anything goes.

Sweet Weekend Buckwheat Sourdough Starter Buckwheat Cakes

I’d never eaten buckwheat cakes until on impulse I bought a bag of mix. Then I was hooked. Being me, of course, I wanted to make them from scratch. Also, typically, I wanted to thrown in a new variable or two into the equation. I had the idea of making sourdough buckwheat because the yeast, I reasoned, would ensure the pancakes were fluffy and had a bit of “lift” since I didn’t trust myself to be able to fake my way through pancake levening, having never made pancakes from scratch. (We’re not regular pancake eaters or I’d have done something like this before now.) Then I stumbled onto a jar of buckwheat honey, which tastes amazing (if you like the flavor of buckwheat, because the honey tastes just like buckwheat cakes, only sweet). I had to incorporate this into my mad buckwheat sourdough scheme somehow.

Researching sourdough starters and buckwheat cakes I found that the proportions for most were a two to one ratio of water to flour, with equal amounts flour and water to feed the starter. Instructions varied widely on the amount of flour and water to use to make the starter and amounts to use to feed, as well as the number of days feeding before it can be used, the frequency of feeding, and the temperature (room temp or refrigerated).

I’d had some experience with starters a long time ago: a neighbor had given me “Herman” which I finally had to throw out because the monster was taking over and I couldn’t keep up with it. Then several years later I bought a sourdough starter and made sourdough bread quite a lot. I don’t remember what brought that to an end, but I seem to recall that the bread tasted worse and worse the longer I used it. Perhaps that famed sourdough tang just got too tangy.

Now here I am, decades later, nursing a sourdough starter again, having not only not learned any lessons from previous experiences, but not even remembering the details of those experiences well enough to guide me this time around. (Which is why it took me two tries to get this right.)

After giving it some thought, I went with 1 cup organic buckwheat flour to 2 cups of lukewarm water. I’m the only one in this household who likes buckwheat cakes, so I didn’t want to end up with enough to feed an army. I dissolved 1 pkg of active dry yeast in 2 cups of warm water, stirred in 1 Tbls buckwheat honey, then 1 cup buckwheat flour. (Bob’s Red Mill brand).

I left the starter in a glass bowl, lightly covered with plastic wrap in a dim room during the week when I was feeding the starter daily.

I started the starter on a Monday, then removed and discarded 1/2 cup Tues and added 1/2 buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup water, stirring well before discarding and stirring well after adding the flour and water. I did this Tues through Friday.

On Saturday I removed 1 cup of the starter and set aside to use for buckwheat cakes. I transferred the remaining starter to a plastic bowl with a lid. I added 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 warm water to the remaining starter mixture. I left the starter out, covered, while making pancakes, then refrigerated the starter. I didn’t touch the starter again until Saturday.

Saturday morning I took the starter out of the fridge for an hour or so, then removed 1 cup for pancakes and added 1 cup warm water and 1 cup buckwheat flour to the starter. I left it out, covered, while I made buckwheat cakes, then refrigerated it again until the next Saturday.

Thereafter I fed the starter once a week, usually on Saturday or Sunday, removing 1 cup of the starter which I used to make buckwheat cakes.

The starter and pancake batter develop a wonderful spongy, almost mousse-like texture over time. The buckwheat cakes are thick, fluffy, and very filling.

For buckwheat cakes:

1 cup buckwheat starter
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbls oil
2 Tbls buckwheat honey (or other honey)

Stir all ingredients together, until no lumps remain. (I add ingredients in order listed, stirring flour into the starter a little bit, then adding everything else on top and stirring it all together at once.)

Preheat lightly greased griddle. I cook the pancakes on “5” on my electric stove, which is the exact midpoint setting. Higher and they tended to burn, lower and they tended to stick. You’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right temperature on your stove. I grease the griddle with a small amount of cooking oil. I don’t measure this, but if I had to guess, I’d say 1-2 Tbls.

Scoop out by 1/3 measuring cup of batter and pour onto lightly greased griddle. This is a thick batter, which makes a fluffy tender pancake. I scoop out the batter from the cup with my finger and then spread the pancake on the griddle using the bottom of the measuring cup swirling outward in a spiral until the batter is evenly distributed in a circle several inches in diameter in the center of the griddle. (If you prefer a thinner pancake batter and thinner pancakes, adding a little bit more milk should do the trick.)

Conventional wisdom says to turn pancakes when they start to bubble in the middle. I would add one other requirement: the edges of the buckwheat cakes need to show signs of being cooked or being firm. The edge will look slightly dry. The pancakes are delicate and you’ll need a firm edge to get underneath and flip them. I usually cook mine about a minute to a minute and a half on the first side, then slightly less time on the other side.

Serve with butter or margarine and maple syrup. If you want sweeter, with a stronger buckwheat flavor, try drizzling some buckwheat honey over the pancakes instead of maple syrup. If the edges of the pancakes are too crumbly when you start eating, this just means they didn’t get enough margarine (or butter) or syrup. 🙂

This recipe makes 7-8 pancakes. They’re very filling. (I usually only eat two, three if I’m ravenous and don’t mind feeling stuffed afterward — and that’s if I’m only having buckwheat cakes. It’s more like one or two if there’s other things on the breakfast table. Your mileage may vary.) If you don’t use all the batter on Saturday morning, cover it and refrigerate it, then take it out and use it up Sunday morning! 😉

The next Saturday, remove a cup of starter to make pancakes and feed the starter 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup lukewarm water. Refrigerate until the next weekend. If you don’t make pancakes every weekend, throw out the starter that’s removed (or use in another recipe) and feed the starter, then refrigerate the starter. The starter must be tended weekly, removing some and feeding with more flour and water, whether you make pancakes or not.

Don’t worry if you can’t make pancakes on Saturday: it won’t hurt anything to wait until Sunday to make pancakes and feed the starter. You just need to remove some starter and feed the starter sometime each weekend.