I had a dream the other night
When everything was still
I dreamed I saw Susannah dear
A-coming down the hill.

The buckwheat cake was in her mouth
The tear was in her eye
Says I, “I’m coming from the south,
Susannah, don’t you cry.

I adore the Be Good Tanyas, and in the spirit of blogging to songs I love, have been wondering about Buckwheat Cakes.

Well, wonder no further than My Kitchen Witch‘s delving into Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, an amazing anthropological / cultural / technical / social history of bread on this Island.  Debi makes Buckwheat  Griddle Cakes, or Bockings, and they are what I would place squarely in the mouth of Susannah, Coming Down the Hill.  I plan to make them this weekend — maybe with a little sourdough starter instead of yeast, or kefir or buttermilk in place of the milk– but looking forward indeed.

Of course, maybe in the song, Buckwheat is a cleaned up version of Bunkweed, a wild Mary-Jane, or so you could read on Banjo Holler.  (Or maybe it’s a symbol of marriage. I need to put on my food and folklore shoes and read some more– but an initial investigation yielded something else, a bit tangential but interesting: a very similar song in tune and idea that Stephen Foster may have “borrowed” from.)

In Permaculture circles, Buckwheat is a great cover crop and a great addition to your Temperate Forest Garden.  It’s not wheat and it’s not a grass, but it’s the seeds– as in Kasha, or buckwheat groats, that we eat, which are milled for flour used in circumstances requiring flour, including noodle-making, as in Japanese Soba.

Ottolenghi would have us making Buckwheat Polenta.  I grew up eating Kasha and Bowties which is comfort-food to me to this day.  Kasha Knish in fact might be a kind of “buckwheat cake” of my own tradition, though savoury not sweet.

But as for sweet, because Buckwheat is gluten-free, there’s an explosion of Buckwheat Cakes in the cake-not-griddle- cake sense, and of course buckwheat pancakes and crepes are their own thing too.

David Lebovitz has a beautiful Buckwheat Chocolate Cake here, which he’s adapted from Cannelle et Vanille.  Food52 has a nice Buckwheat and Apple Cake too. If you do your own search you’ll come up with loads of choices.

I am personally fond of one in Anna Del Conte’s The Classic Food of Northern Italy; her Buckwheat  Cake includes almonds and lemon zest and cinnamon, and is split in half and filled with Blackcurrant Jam, which has the faintest hint of bitter beneath the bright.  (I love traditions of jam use in cakes and pastries, and want to write more about this sometime.)

Oh Susannah, don’t you cry for me / I am making you a Buckwheat Cake/ Out of Curiosity…

 

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