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October 07, 2007

The best bread 2-Thata flour!

Atta flour is one of the most commonly misunderstood ingredients in Indian cooking. when you taste real atta flour you will exclaim "thata flour!" and demolish the lot.

A grain of wheat is made up of three main parts. The germ is the bit in the middle, which holds the most nutrients and the endosperm makes up the bulk of the grain with starches and sugars. The husk or bran is the tough skin, like you find on the outside of brown rice. This is very high in dietary fibre.

Brown or wholewheat flour contains all three parts of the grain.

White flour contains only the endosperm which means it retains the carbohydrates loses most of the minerals and vitamins.

Atta flour on the other hand uses the germ and the endosperm. But not the bran. Bran fibre is insoluble, so atta flour is a much lighter more easily digested flour. And good digestion is the key to good health.

Unfortunately the Heart Foundation have arrived in India with a vengeance and to get the tick of approval atta flour is no longer atta flour. It's still labeled atta flour, but it contains the whole wheat grain. Also don't be fooled into thinking atta flour is half white and half brown flour mixed together.

Atta flour is light enough to use in place of white flour in all baking, and it is of course the key ingredient of chapati, the best bread. So we are back to the best bread...stay tuned...

17 comments:

redfootball said...

thx for your article on atta flour. do you know of a brand i can purchase in the u.s.? thank you.

Julia said...

I don't know what's available in the US unfortunately, but I can tell you what to look for. Read the ingredients and you especially don't want one with added bran- brands that advertise high firbre or the heart foundation tick of approval typically do have bran added. Especially stoneground and organic flour is good.

Once you buy a brand of flour try sifting it and the bran should stay in the seive. If no bran collect in the seive that's great news!If there is bran, chuck the bran and use the rest of the flour, this is basically how they make atta flour anyway.


Wheat without bran and with germ is much healthier, and makes a much more better dough in my opinion. Good luck!

mPaula said...

I had been eagerly awaiting a local food map (for the 100-mile diet) and found a local farm that produces Atta Flour. I am in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They have their own store but also provide flour to other retail stores, some in the Detroit area. Here is what they have listed:

Chana Food Products
(Tecumseh Flour Mill)
11664 County Road 42
Tecumseh, ON, N8N 2M1
Canada

Phone: 519-979-1263
Fax: 519-979-1075

Store Hours:
M-F: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Sat: 10:00am - 2:00pm
Sun: 1:00pm - 3:00pm

Weekend hours subject to change; please call before coming.

Email: info@chanafoodproducts.com

Stores in Michigan:

India Gate Gourmet Foods
1595 S. Opdyke
Bloomfield Hills, MI, 48304
India Grocers
2642 South Rochester Rd,
Rochester Hills, MI
248-852-9492
Namaste Plaza (Troy)
164 East Maple Road,
Troy, MI, 48083
248-583-1414
Namaste Plaza
34703 Grand River Ave.
Farmington Hills, MI, 48335
248-476-7500
Indian Market
45530 Cherry Hill (near the Hindu Temple)
Canton, MI, 48187
734-259-0237
Produce Palace
29300 Dequindre
Warren, MI, 48092
586-574-3000

I hope this will help someone in the US.

mPaula

Julia said...

Great find mPaula! Thanks for sharing. I hope redfootball checks back in to read it.

Todd in Bangkok said...

Hi Julia!

great site, great info!

i have one question about atta, if it doesn't contain the bran doesn't that make it more like a refined (white) flour?

i ask because diabetes runs in my family so i try to keep my grain consumption to all "whole grain." my wife and i make our own 100% whole wheat bread and pasta and we use a lot of whole wheat flour when we occasionally make cookies =)

i'm just concerned about the insulin spike this may cause compared to pure whole grain flour. from what i understand, you don't want grains to be too easy to digest, they turn to sugars faster and then assault your pancreas.

thanks!
Todd

Julia said...

Atta flour is in-between white and brown flour. It contains all of the nutrients but less of the insoluble fibre. If you follow conventional nutrition fibre is a great thing, but Ayurveda teaches that insoluble fibre is difficult to digest, and puts strain on the digestive system without offering any nutritive value.

Brown flour is definitely much better than white flour, but in my opinion atta flour is better again. In Ayurveda this does depend on the individual though, so if you find your digestion is strong enough to handle brown flour than go ahead and use it.

Basmati rice is considered one of the best grain by Ayurveda because it is slow release, unlike other varieties of rice.

Diabetes can be triggered by any of the three dosha's, though most commonly Kapha is to blame. Wheat is generally considered too heavy for Kapha as a staple grain, and lighter, dryer, hotter grains including corn, millet and buckwheat are preferred.

Turmeric is an excellent daily spice for pprotecting the pancreas.

Hope this helps.

NH said...

Hi Julia and everybody,
I've just read your interesting article on Atta flour. I spend many months a year in India and there of course, Atta is an everyday ingredient and easily obtainable. I usually mix half Atta with half white flour for my bread, it's delicious. One query I have though, I am a fan of German type Rye mix bread and I'm unable to get Rye here in India. Have you or anyone got a clue if I can substitute Rye for something else to obtain a similar rather heavier and denser (and more moist) loaf?
Best wishes.

Julia said...

I'm not sure I can help much with that one. I love rye bread too and really missed it whilst travelling in India. I suspect rye is a cold climate grain.

I do know there is a German man called Michael who can be found at Uma's guesthouse on Lahori Thola, Varanasi, who makes his own German Rye bread. Don't know where in India you are but he may be able to help.

Rye is related to wheat and barley. Wheat obviously doesn't have the nuttiness of rye. Barley doesn't have enough gluten making it a very difficult bread-making flour. You could experiment with mixing these, but I think it would be hard work, and I'm not sure you could get barley in India anyway.

Good luck.

Ms. Pattangi said...

Hi, It was good reading this article. Thanks for posting it. I tried making bread with atta in my bread machine and it dint turn out great. It was hard. Not soft enough. at-least for me :) So I tried it with 50% atta and 50% white bread flour and it turned out good.

Regarding barley in India, I am sure you can find barley in India though not sure about the rye flour there. But i was wondering if anyone could use millets in bread making. There are lots of millet varieties available in India and if we could use it, it would be wonderful.

It will be great if some one can help us with an recipe for millet bread ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi, It was good reading this article. Thanks for posting it. I tried making bread with atta in my bread machine and it dint turn out great. It was hard. Not soft enough. at-least for me :) So I tried it with 50% atta and 50% white bread flour and it turned out good.

Regarding barley in India, I am sure you can find barley in India though not sure about the rye flour there. But i was wondering if anyone could use millets in bread making. There are lots of millet varieties available in India and if we could use it, it would be wonderful.

It will be great if some one can help us with an recipe for millet bread ;)

Julia said...

I've never used a bread maker as my husband doesn't tolerate yeast well. I'm glad you found a flour mix that works for you.

I agree millet bread would be delicious, and great for Kapha. Don't they make chapatti out of millet in some parts of north-east India? I don't think it has any gluten in it, so would have to be mixed with wheat or another gluten flour.

Please share any millet bread recipes you come across.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Ayerveda notions about fiber:
Nobody digests fibre. It is a spacer that IMPROVES digestion. Imagine a concrete mixer with only cement and water. It would sit in a big glob and not flow. Add stones and it becomes movable.
Your digestive system would probably halt without fibre.
Try mixing a big thick shake of powdered milk and water (o% fibre) and see if you aren't in emergency by the following day.

Julia said...

I agree fibre is a very important part of any diet, but I still think we place too much emphasis on it. Maybe because so many people eat so much refined processed food so now the health advice is gone too far to other extreme.

Ayurveda also considers fibre better for Kapha that Vata. Kapha can easily pull nutrients out of food and shouldn't eat very much. Fibre is very helpful for Kapha to feel full and satisfied. Vata on the other hand needs very nutrient dense food and whilst a little fibre is helpful, it is very difficult to digest and takes up valuable space which could be filled with more nutritious food.

Hope this helps. Ayurveda has a very different concept of health that mainstream dietetics.

GD said...

Hi Julia, Excellent article and thank you for posting. I am an Indian, living in US now. And discovering the wonders of Ayurveda and home cooking. I am always amazed that in today's information age where we can tell the if one of the moons of Jupiter has water in the core, and yet there so little conventional wisdom and understand of something as basic and essential as wheat.

I switched from using Indian Atta to American whole wheat Flour, because I suspected that Indian Atta are adding too much Maida to give it the softness and color.

Since I am vata and thanks to ur article, I am relooking at the Indian made Atta option. If you use the India made Atta, which brand do you use? I fell for the whole-wheat marketing of Sujata but now I realize that Bran is counter productive for my diet.

Thanks again,
GD
NYC, USA

Julia said...

Glad you enjoyed the article GD. But I am in Australia and don't know too much about what is available in the US.

There are two brands I usually use. The first is a local, stone ground, biodynamic atta flour from a farm called Eden Valley in West Australia. The second is by a guy called Jimmy who was on Masterchef last year and now has atta flour in supermarkets.

But like I said, I don't think that will be much help to you in the US. Sorry!

Unknown said...

hi jules

was searching for stuff about atta and ayurwhat came up...
on jimmy's website it seems that he just grinds the bran rather than rather than take it out? (and he's saying the ones from india are ok)
anyway, there's a contact for eden valley flours in victoria so i'll contact them and just go for that one.
love g

Julia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.