Since I got the bread machine, I’m always on the lookout for different types of flours. I’ve been thinking of trying out gluten-free recipes but the combination of hard-to-find flours has stopped me from getting round to it so far.
However I was rather impressed with the selection of flours on sale at Marketplace supermarket at Tanglin Mall. Being one of the most expensive supermarkets on the island, I hardly ever go there, but if one is in need of unusual flours, it’s definitely worth a visit. There’s a wide range from Bob’s Red Mill and Origins Healthcare.
Even for basics, Marketplace is the only store I know of that stocks my favourite flour: Waitrose Organic range. The Waitrose range has the following flours:
Plain White Flour
Self-Raising White Flour
Plain White Bread Flour
Plain Stoneground Wholemeal
Stoneground Wholemeal Bread Flour
Unlike other flours I’ve bought before, Waitrose never seems to smell stale or produce weevils even when it’s passed the use-by date. (It is recommended that you keep wholemeal products in the fridge as they go rancid quickly, but my Waitrose flour has kept very well outside the fridge too.)
The Waitrose stoneground wholemeal flour is also finely-ground so the texture is smooth and light, even for cakes. Don’t believe it if you are told wholemeal cakes are heavy and unpalatable; most people will eat my wholemeal cakes without even realising they aren’t plain flour (although those with sensitive palates will notice a slightly more gritty texture).
In contrast, Prima brand Wholemeal Flour which is the most commonly available type in Singapore supermarkets is a very different type of product. It’s extremely coarse and must be combined with plain flour. However, the coarse grains are still noticeable and I have given up using this for any kind of baking, even if just to mix a small amount with plain flour.
[Update 18/12/07: I've now decided to use Origins Healthcare organic wholemeal flour as it seems to be more finely-ground than Waitrose wholemeal flour, and is also cheaper. It's easily available at NTUC supermarkets as well. See my other comments on flour here.]
Where Waitrose stands out is that it is the only brand of wholemeal bread flour which I’ve come across. Regular wholemeal flour is easy to find, but it’s not suitable for making bread with. One health food shop staff I asked suggested I mix wholemeal with plain bread flour instead, which is a reasonable idea but I want a fully wholemeal bread and a lower proportion of bread flour affects the texture of the bread. The other solution is to get some vital wheat gluten and add it to plain (wholemeal) flour as described here. Bob’s Red Mill produces vital wheat gluten but it’s quite hard to find in the stores. (Read more about flour here and here.)
Then again, maybe vital wheat gluten might be easier to find if I stopped looking in the baking section but tried to find it health food stores among products for vegetarians. [Update 14/11/07: found vital wheat gluten from Bob's Red Mill brand in Cold Storage Naturally Marketplace at Vivocity, but it was so expensive! S$20+ for about half a kilo? It's only US$5.79 for a 1.5lb bag on the Bob's Red Mill mail order site.]
Vital wheat gluten is also the main ingredient in producing the gluten chunks commonly used in savoury Chinese vegetarian dishes, also known in Japanese as fu or seitan in macrobiotics. Read more about gluten as a food here, here and here (with recipes in latter two links). Hope our gluten-intolerant friends aren’t getting shivers down their spine reading about all this!
P.S. Tanglin Mall also has the organic store, Brown Rice Paradise on the 3rd floor. They have a great selection of teas from Yogi Tea brand and Traditional Medicinals (including some flavours I’ve not seen elsewhere, such as Yogi Tea’s Chai range), organic miso from South River in amazing varieties such as Dandelion Leek, and it is the only place I’ve found Muso brand furikake (which costs S$5.50, as compared to Eden brand furikake which is $11.85 at Supernature). However… for most products they are rather expensive. I would definitely compare prices before buying anything there: some sea salt in exactly the same brand was half the price at the ‘expensive’ Marketplace supermarket downstairs, and some Avalon toiletries were nearly three times the price compared to the Nature’s Farm chain store!
17/03/08 update: new info on buying vital wheat gluten here.