Friday, April 8, 2011
Almond Buckwheat Berry Cakes
These little snack cakes are made essentially from ground almonds and a bit of the unique flavor of buckwheat flour. Although buckwheat is fairly uncommon in the American diet, it was one of the earliest crops introduced to the United States by Europeans. Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb. Since it contains no wheat, it's suitable for gluten free diets. It's one of the best sources of plant protein and is rich in magnesium and antioxidants. The buckwheat flower is also a bee magnet and produces great dark honey.
I was introduced to buckwheat when I was a college student and lived across the street from a breakfast diner that served buckwheat pancakes. Every now and then my friends and I would meet there and I could never resist ordering that short stack of buckwheat pancakes. They were so fresh and delicious I had no interest in any of the other stuff on the menu. I enjoyed them tremendously with just a dab of fresh berry compote.
These little cakes are a way of bringing back that delicious memory. Making them was also a way for me to take a jar of homemade blackberry preserves from my pantry and savor a little prelude to spring. The cakes are moist and tender little treats with an earthy flavor and a very satisfying chewiness. I think the dollop of tart blackberry is the perfect consort.
- You're likely to find buckwheat flour in the bulk items section of your market. It should be bought in small quantities and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before using.
- Toast almonds by spreading them out on a baking sheet and placing them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
- Be sure to use good quality blackberry or raspberry preserves that do not contain sugar.
- I’ve tried this recipe with hazelnuts but the flavors really didn’t work for me.
- You can also make this as a 9” cake. Instructions for that are included below.
Almond Buckwheat Berry Cakes
Makes 16 small cakes or one 9" cake
6 oz butter @ room temperature
3/4 C sugar, divided
2 t vanilla
4 eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 C (6 oz) almonds, toasted
1/2 C buckwheat flour
1/4 t salt
1/3 C blackberry or raspberry 100% fruit preserves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two standard muffin pans or one 9” cake pan. Line the 9” cake pan with parchment.
Place the almonds, buckwheat flour and salt in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely ground. Pour into a bowl.
Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites.
Beat the butter and 1/2 C sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks one at a time and mix until each is thoroughly blended. Scrape down the bowl. Add vanilla and combine.
Add the almond buckwheat ingredients and mix just until it starts to come together. Take off the mixer and finish mixing by hand. The batter will be very thick.
Whip the egg whites until foamy and opaque. Slowly add 1/4 C sugar a little bit at a time and continue beating until they hold a glossy peak that is stiff but still has some lilt.
Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter to loosen it. Fold in another 1/3 of the whites in the same manner. Fold in the last 1/3 a bit more gently.
Scoop the batter into 16 of the muffin pans. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of preserves into each one. Bake for about 15 – 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted tests clean. Cool 10 minutes, then using a small knife to loosen the edges, release the cakes and place on a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
If you’re making a 9” cake, bake for about 28 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted tests clean. Cool 10 minutes, then invert the cake. Remove the parchment and turn right side up. Place on a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
Slice the cake into two layers. Spread the bottom layer with the preserves. Place the other half on top of the preserves and press down gently to secure. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar.