Gluten-free flours in Indian cooking

Food sensitivities come on many levels and the last few months I’ve tried to work on fine-tuning my diet to take into account foods that I can tolerate, but which aren’t actually great for my system. So I’ve had to face up to the fact that chocolate should only be an occasional indulgence (the same way alcohol is to others, perhaps – both impair brain function!), and now, finally coming out of denial about the effect of wheat and gluten on me. This has been hard because I love baking so much, and alternative flours will always be that much more difficult to work with, requiring plenty of patient experimentation.

Just got a new gluten-free recipe book today, The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by the late Bette Hagman, and the best thing about it is the explanation of the results from different types of flours. Hagman has moved beyond the rice-based GF flour mix she used in her earlier recipe books — and many gluten-free recipes from other sources also use mainly rice flour as a replacement — as the results are noticeably different from using wheat flour, particularly in terms of texture. She has found that bean flours are much better, particularly for bread.

Hagman’s Four Flour Bean Mix recipe (available ready mixed from Authentic Foods) :
2/3 part: garfava bean flour (a garbanzo/chickpeas flour + fava flour mix, produced by Authentic Foods)
1/3 part: sorghum flour
1 part: cornstarch
1 part: tapioca flour

This sounds pretty exciting but first of all, I needed to stock up on bean and other alternative flours. I immediately thought of shopping at Mustafa, which turned out to have everything I was looking for and more! No need to turn to Bob’s Red Mill flours which costs S$5 upwards for about 500g :). A wide range of non-wheat flours are common to Indian cooking and thus easily available at affordable prices. Cornstarch and tapioca flour are common in Chinese cooking and easily available at regular supermarkets in Singapore (NTUC is the best for a wide range of Chinese & Southeast Asian flours).

Here’s what I bought in Mustafa:
* Jowar flour = sorghum
* Besan/ chana dhal flour = garbanzo beans/ chickpeas [can be easily made at home too]
* Green bean flour = mung bean — the Indian variety looks coarser and less refined than the Indonesian type (hoon kwee flour), possibly the the latter has had the skin removed
* Urid/urad dhal flour = black gram (similar to mung beans)
* Roasted ragi flour = finger millet
* White rice flour — similar to that used in Chinese cooking but the Indian version seems a bit coarser and less white, which could suggest less bleaching (have always wondered about this when it comes to Chinese rice flour)

Other non-wheat flours sold at Mustafa include:
* Bajra/ kambu flour = pearl millet
* Kotu/ kuttu flour = buckwheat
* Makka flour = cornmeal, comes in fine & coarse (different from cornstarch)

Of course, one route to gluten-free bread substitutes is simply to make the Indian dishes that use these non-wheat flours. Here’s a sampling:
* Jowar/ sorghum flour: jowar roti, jowar paratha
* Besan/ chana dhal/ gram flour: besan puda, besan and zucchini pancakes
* Mung/moong dhal/ green bean flour: moong dhal dosa
* Urad dhal/ black gram flour: urad dhal dosa
* Ragi/ finger millet flour: ragi neeru (a drink), ragi idli, ragi biscuits, ragi chakli (looks like murugu), ragi mudde (balls), ragi sandige (fritters)
* Bajra/ kambu/ pearl millet flour: bajra roti, another bajra roti, bajra paratha, sweet millet biscuits
* Kotu/ kuttu/ buckwheat flour: buckwheat pakora in yoghurt sauce, kotu poori, kuttu paratha
* Soy flour: ragi, oatmeal & soy dosa
* Rice flour: rice flour dosa, rice flour roti
* Makka flour/ cornmeal : cornmeal & potato kachauri, cornmeal roti,

Need help deciphering ingredient names in various Indian languages? See this glossary.

For more information on non-wheat flours:
Cook’s Thesaurus: Non-wheat flours
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Grains
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Seeds
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Legumes
Recipe Tips : Non-Wheat Flours – Tubers
and you might also want to refer to my page on using flours in general.

I’ll mix the chana dhal flour with a mix of the other bean flours to replace the ‘garfava flour’ in Hagman’s Four Flour Bean Mix. Will have to open the various packets to check if the other bean flours have a particularly strong taste that will affect the flour mix. Here’s hoping all goes well when I try out a gluten-free, yeast-free bread recipe soon!

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2 Responses

  1. Indian food is delicious :p … Have a look at my cooking conversion chart for more information about conversion methodology. Regards

  2. Hi Cooking Conversion Chart,

    A very useful chart for weights & measures conversion you have there.

    Having been using combinations of non-wheat flours for gluten-free baking, I’ve learnt that each type of flour has a different weigh-volume ratio. I have certainly seen weigh-volume conversion charts for alternative flours before, but they are much less common.

    In my baking using flour combinations, to be on the safe side, I always use weight measurements for greater accuracy.

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