The advent of autumn in Seattle goes a little something like this:
“Oh wow, summer isn’t over yet! 85 degrees in mid-September, Seattle you just outdid yourself. Nicely done.”
“Yay, Pumpkin spice lattes! It’s a little cooler in the mornings, the days are getting shorter, and oh how I’ve been looking forward to sweet fall for so long.”
“Welp. Winter is here. It’s gray and drizzling for the UPTEENTH day in a row. Guess I’ll see you in nine months sunshine.”
As I sat in my kitchen this morning, shivering in a puffy coat and sipping a spicy mixture of red rooibos tea and whiskey hot toddy mix—I mean, coffee! I started to drool thinking about a late afternoon snack of cookies. Thick, crunchy brown sugar edges with chewy, buttery interiors and a whole grain crumb. Going for an American girl-wishes-she-were-in-Northern France theme (I like to think we Seattleites share more than just a temperate climate) why not include nutty, winey, complex buckwheat flour? Then big chunks of dark chocolate and maybe even a sprinkling of grey sea salt my boss brought back from Normandy.
So it was decided. Rather than fight the craving, sometimes it’s best surrender yourself to the changing seasons and welcome it wholeheartedly—with a cookie.
When I began researching buckwheat, it was almost impossible not to draw the comparisons in my head to quinoa. It’s gluten-free and also experiencing a modern renaissance due to its health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and hypertension. Like quinoa, buckwheat is often mistaken as a grain or seed when in fact is it actually a dried fruit (other examples of similar structures in plants include sunflower “seeds” and rose hips).
It’s also relatively high in protein, including several essential amino acids which are commonly lacking in most cereal grains, in addition to much higher levels of vitamins including zinc, copper and manganese. Even the bad “carbs” in buckwheat have some redeeming qualities; the tightly packed nature of the amylopectin starch molecules make it so that some of the starch passes through the large intestine undigested, acting as a fiber and prebiotic and putting it low on the glycemic index. Although, when eaten in cookie form with brown sugar and chocolate, the glycemic index is not so low anymore. Life is about balance, right?
Dark Chocolate Chunk Buckwheat Cookies with Grey Salt
This recipe is deeply inspired by the chocolate chip cookies in Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Sherry Yard at the Kneading Conference West a few weeks ago, whom Kim worked with at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.
Makes 32 large cookies
250 g (2 cups) buckwheat flour
125 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
6.9 g (1½ teaspoons) baking powder
4.6 g (1 teaspoon) baking soda
3 g (½ teaspoon) kosher salt
226 g (2 sticks) room temperature butter
220 g (1 cup, packed) dark brown sugar
200 g (1 cup) granulated sugar
100 g (2 large) whole eggs
8.7 g (2 teaspoons) pure vanilla extract
226 g (8 ounces) dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into ¼-inch chunks (I used Barry Callebaut)
Grey sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven. Place the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350⁰F. Line baking sheets with silicone-coated baking mats or parchment paper.
Sift the dry. Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl, pushing through any lumps of baking powder or soda and then pouring back any remaining bits of grain into the bowl.
Cream the butter. In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment (or alternatively, a large bowl with a hand-held mixer) cream the butter with the two sugars until well combined, about two minutes but no longer. Scrape down the down and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the vanilla and scrape the bowl.
Add the dry. Dump the dry ingredients onto the butter mixture and mix until just barely combined, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined. Take the bowl out of the mixer and give the dough a final mix by hand , making sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients at the bottom or streaks of butter on the sides of the bowl.
Shape the cookies. Scoop two tablespoons of dough into mounds evenly spaced on the baking sheets, six cookies per sheet. Very lightly, sprinkle the tops with grey salt.
Bake the cookies. Place two sheet trays in the oven at a time, rotating them from top to bottom and front to back after 8 minutes, then bake for another 8 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Allow to cool for a minute on the sheet tray before removing with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.