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beechnut buckwheat bâtards (first ever?)

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freerk's picture
freerk

beechnut buckwheat bâtards (first ever?)

After spending a weekend at my sister's beautiful house up North, I came home with these:

Beechnuts! As a kid I would spend half the autumn crawling around the base of the beech tree behind our school, looking for beechnuts, peeling them on the spot and eating them raw. Quite disgusting actually. Later on in life it became apparent that it wasn't all that healthy either; there is a minute dose of cyanide present in the raw nut. I never suffered any ill effects, and no one ever did probably, because to get really ill you'd need to eat quite a lot of them.

The beauty of it all is that when dried and roasted, all those bad elements evaporate. This afternoon I roasted the batch of nuts that I collected, and was instantly taken back to my childhood.

I told my better half about the "Fabeltjeskrant" children show I grew up on, here in the Netherlands. That was my first encounter with beechnuts, and most likely the reason why, for a number of autumns we would be collecting them whenever we could. Beechnuts were sort of a running gag in this puppet show, set in a forest, with a wide variety of animals that all seemed to love "beukennootjes" (e.g. beechnuts) They ate beechnut cakes, -pies, drank beechnut drinks, I think they even paid each other in "beukennootjes"

Putting two and two together, I decided to google for breads made with these forgotten tiny nuts. It came back with almost zilch (there was one "recipe" that classified itself as "total fail", so I didn't pursue that one...). Slightly puzzled I went to the TFL search bar... surely here I would find...something? Nope, nada, nothing! So, I went where no one went before, or so it seems... Since I didn't have a whole lot of beechnuts, I toasted them, and used them as soon as I could in the final dough. They were wonderfully fragrant. I decided to mix the nuts into a buckwheat bâtard (with buckwheat levain).

The levain was a little sluggish, for my schedule forced me to retard it, and it wasn't really back on track when my "baking window" came up, but nevertheless, they turned out quite nice. The outside is hardly spectacular, nor is the crumb, but the taste combination of buckwheat and beechnut is enchanting! The "blander" nuttiness of the buckwheat formed a perfect stage for the very specific beechnut to shine. Even with only two hands full they came through in all their glory.

My sister has received strict orders to save as many beechnuts as she can; I want to make this bread better than it is. I hope you want to help me get it really right! The taste is there, but I think the bread itself... I don't know, yet...it's just not right yet.

 

Freerk

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I can't imagine collecting and processing beechnuts.  The ones that I grew up with in northern Michigan would scarcely cover a fingernail (after removing the burr but before peeling), so no one in my acquaintance ever used them as food.  The amount of work for the amount of product was just too daunting.  They are very popular with deer, pigs, and other animals, I know. 

Paul

freerk's picture
freerk

Hey Paul!

Peeling those little (indeed) fingernail sized nuts wasn't easy. I realized that thatprobably was why my grandmother always had us (grand children) peel them; soooo much easier with little fingers :-)

I  "infused" the dough with 2 handsful of toasted nuts (the smell, ohh that wonderful smell), so it took me "only" about half an hour of grumbling and fidgetting and crawling on hands and knees under the kitchen table when those fickle things tried to escape their fate. I got quite handy with it, after a while.

I'm waiting for my next batch of nuts, so I can try and push the foormula and see if I can make it better!

Greetz from Amsterdam!

Freerk

lumos's picture
lumos

Really charming story, Freerk. Thank you for sharing.

Never thought of 'beechnuts' as something edible, but accoding to this Japanese site (Move a cursor on to the bigger pic. ), looks like they are.  It says it tastes like peanuts or walnuts.....though I think peanuts tastes quite differently from walnuts..... How would you describe the taste? 

Probably it's a creation of pure coincidence you combined beechnuts with buckwheat (unless you are actually fluent in Japanese and are familiar with old names for all sorts of plants in Japan :p),   beechnuts are also called 'mountain buckwheat' because the similarlity of its  shape to  buckwheat grain.  Interesting, don't you think? ;)

 

Buckwheat baguette with nutty addition sounds seriously yummy! 

lumos

 

 

freerk's picture
freerk

I've been eating them when I was a child, usually straight after toasting them, and the smell and taste are engrained in that part of my brain (I guess) that taps right into "sense memory". I would classify the taste as....beechnut... I don't taste/smell much of a relation to peanuts. It has the earthy tones of walnut, but the taste/smell is more "dark brown", if that makes any sense, and doesn't have that slight bitter undertone; sweeter and darker. Not that I suggest you run off and stick your nose into fallen and slightly decomposing leaves, but it actually smells like the forest floor at autumn (well..again; the forest floor that is in my sense memory, and there was a whole birch forest behind my elementary school, so I guess that doesn't really help either)

The simlarity in shape with buckwheat  is indeed striking! I didn't think of that!

"Mountain buckwheat bread" I like that name! Mountain buckwheat bread it is then!

Give Daisy my warm greetings. Ever since the TFL gettogether, she has been really silent.... Don't make her work too hard ;-)

Freerk

 

lumos's picture
lumos

From the photos on the website I linked above, I was wondering if they tasted a bit like cobnuts, but probably not from what you described.

Just happens I live right nest to a large forest, so next time I go into the forest, so I will smell the fallen leaves to try to imagine how beechnut might smell like. (NO! I'm not sticking my nose into it!  )  I might as well try find a beech tree and see if I can get some nuts from it. 

Hey, I'm NOT pushing Daisy, excuse me! :p   Actually Daisy is a bit busy with something else at the mo, so I'm waiting for her to come back, too.  Just happened this busy thing has been runnning almost pararel to the planning of TFL Get-Together things.  Unfortunate timing, but c'est la vie, sometimes....;) 

freerk's picture
freerk

It's closer to hazel than it is to a peanut, but they have their own "niche" tastewise.

Give it a go if you find some beechnuts. Make sure to dry them thoroughly and roast them slow but thorough to let the cyanide escape.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Also the first to find them under birch trees... there must have been a beech tree nearby.  

I read that the European beechnuts are slightly larger than the American beechnuts.   That must make them worth the while, not to mention all the memories.    This seems to be a bountiful nutty year.  :)

freerk's picture
freerk

You are so right Mini. In dutch i mingle them up (berk versus beuk) and apparently i do the same in english (birch versus beech).

It is indeed a bountiful year this year. Bit of a nag though, since a Dutch expression says that in bountiful beechnut years, we will have a very cold winter.... Brrrr, i can still remember last year's....and not really ready for the next one

Greet

freerk

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I think we will have a very cold winter.  All the signs are there...  And I'm preparing for it.  Wood comes on Sunday.  

EvaB's picture
EvaB

but used to love the Smith Brothers Beechnut cough candies, they had a distinctive taste!

I have wild hazlenuts growing in my area, and they are pure hell to pick and shell, they have a hull on them covered in tiny sharp hairs which sting when you get them in your fingers. A pain in the butt to get rid of the hairs so you can shell the nuts of the hull, then you have of course to crack and shell the hard shells from the nuts! They are quite tiny in comparison to commercial hazel nuts or filberts (filberts have a slightly different but related taste to hazel nuts but different size as well) but ever so tasty.

I can remember the butter nuts that my brother picked many years ago, we got about 15 pounds of unshelled nuts, they had furry fibres too. My mother solved the problem by placing the nuts into a mesh bag and running around in the dryer on air fluff to remove the fibres which allowed the shelling to proceed without sore fingers! They are sort of like walnuts but again a different taste. The dryer trick works with the hazelnuts as well.

loydb's picture
loydb

You can tell I'm from Texas -- I thought this was a recipe incorporating chewing tobacco. I'm happy I was wrong :)

 

freerk's picture
freerk

You made my weekend loyd! I'm rolling over the floor here.

I have never had the privilige to chew that fine Texan produce, but I did come across it whilst researching. Is it stil around?

Not that I'm suggesting a chewing tobacco bread here, but actually... a few aromatic rather than nicotine ridden tobacco leaves in a wood fired oven might work on some breads...  wonder if that has ever been done.

 

loydb's picture
loydb

I personally don't care for the stuff, but I have friends who chew it constantly. You aren't missing anything :)

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Like Paul, I do admire your patience, Freerk. As a child we always picked beechnuts from the ground and ate them on our way back from school. My grandmother remembered making cake and a kind of bread of them, when there was nothing much else to eat after the war (probably as an alternative to turnips). I always liked the taste, similar to hazelnuts, but you have to peel a lot to get enough for any pastry because often the little nuts are empty, too.

I just visited Hamburg, and pounced on some beechnuts I saw on the ground. My husband was wondering that you could eat those. I haven't seen them in Maine so far, our beeches here are puny compared to the European ones, so probably the nuts are not much to look for, either. But, at least my two little hazelnuts are growing, and maybe in 1o years, or so, I can have those.

Karin

Salilah's picture
Salilah

If there are any beechnuts left in my garden after the coaltits have been munching them (very strange, you hear rustling then small thuds as the outside casing hits the shed!) I'll give it a go!

How long did you roast them?  How did you incorporate them - chopped roughly?

Also - what was the proportion of buckwheat with other flour?  I've some French Farine de Ble Noir which I think is the same?  I've only used small amounts of buckwheat in the past in a bread machine recipe...  Any hints appreciated!

thanks