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Gram flour is a finely ground powder made from cooked, roasted garbanzo beans. Known also as chickpea flour, it is pale yellow and has a silky texture. This flour is widely used as an ingredient in Indian cuisine, as well as in some Asian, Middle Eastern, and European dishes.
Chickpeas (Cicer arietinum) grow on small bushes that produce feathery foliage and plump, oval pea pods. There are two types: desi, which are small and dark with rugged skin, and kabuli, which are larger and lighter with smooth skin. Historically, these legumes were one of the earliest cultivated crops. India is the world’s largest producer.
The term “gram” comes from the Bengali dialect. On much of the Indian subcontinent, the flour is called besan or chana. In the Middle East, it is called hummus. In Italy, it is known as farina di ceci, and in French, it is called farine de pois chiche.
Much like chickpeas themselves, gram flour is relatively high in both protein and carbohydrates. It is also rich in B vitamins, calcium, and other minerals such as iron, phosphorous, and magnesium. As a gluten-free product, it is especially favored by those with food allergies and special dietary needs.
Some of India’s most popular dishes are made with gram flour. Many deep-fried dishes are coated with a batter made of this flour, egg, and water. These include potato croquettes called bonda, vegetable fritters called pakora, and stuffed chilies called bajji. Chickpea flour is also used to make a crispy Indian flatbread called papadum.
In other international cuisines, gram flour is used in an interesting array of dishes. It is used to make the Chinese food called jidou liangfen, a firm jelly that is served cold or added to stir-fry dishes. In Myanmar, it is used to make a tofu-like food called to-hpu. Around the Mediterranean, it is used to make an Italian flatbread called farinata, a crepe-like French-Provencial flatbread called socca, and Sicilian fritters called panelle, a popular street food.
Many Asian markets and most Indian grocery stores carry the flour, and it is also available in health food stores, since it is popular among vegetarians and vegans. For intrepid cooks, it can be made at home by boiling, dry-roasting, and mortar-grinding dried chickpeas.
Gram flour is a fantastic choice for those that are on a gluten free diet. It is heavy in carbohydrates so you get your energy boost but because it contains no wheat, you can stay gluten free.
For those who have looked at other gluten free flour, you sometimes find that they are sorely lacking in fiber and protein.
Gram flour is different and contains 40% of your daily fiber in one 92g serving and a whopping 21grams of protein. Not only that, it contains 25% of your daily iron requirements.
I think that if you are planning on making some awesome pancakes gram flour is a great way to go.
Gram flour is not just great for cooking. I have found that gram flour makes an awesome facemask with a few extra ingredients. All you need is a couple of tablespoons of gram flour, a little turmeric, a tablespoon of sandalwood powder and a couple of tablespoons of fresh milk.
Once you have all the ingredients mix them into a paste in a bowl and apply it to you freshly washed face. This mask can be left on for about fifteen minutes and is great for improving your complexion. It is also a subtle way to remove facial hair over time as the turmeric has some interesting properties.