Chickpea-Flour Flatbread

City Paper

I tend to develop crushes on ingredients. Sweet potatoes, kale, coconut milk, avocados, and chicken thighs have all been my jam (come to think of it, jam, too, has been my jam).

Well, the latest stud on my culinary dance card is none other than chickpea flour, also known as besan or gram flour (the lattermost is not to be confused with graham flour, famously used in graham crackers). I first learned about it when my friend Andrew told me about a pizza crust he made with it. He said it was deliciously crisp and flavorful—not to mention tailored to accommodate several dietary restrictions.

My ongoing curiosity about chickpea flour was recently satisfied on a Sunday trip to Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley, California, where I like the food, but I love the adjacent Indian grocery store, with its affordable bulk spices, unique teas, outrageously cheap and delicious raw nuts, and fabulous selection of paneer. At Vik’s, an enormous two-pound bag of chickpea flour could be mine for a song (OK, for $3). 

Chickpea flour is one of those wonderous miracle flours. High in protein (6 grams per ¼-cup serving) and fiber (5 grams per ¼-cup serving), and relatively low in carbohydrates (18 grams per ¼-cup serving, only 13 of which are effective, after you subtract the fiber), it’s an ideal product for anyone avoiding gluten or refined carbohydrates. It tastes nutty but light, and when cooked in a little bit of oil, become outrageously crispy on the exterior while maintaining a lovely tenderness on the inside.

After much research and several flops (some of my attempts to make this literally flopped, and not in a good way) I have nailed what I believe is the most perfect chickpea-flour flatbread around. It’s somewhere between naan and a dosa or crepe. Serve it with curry, soup, or creamy Greek yogurt for dipping, or eat it on its own. I promise, you, too, will be hooked. 

 

INGREDIENTS

½ cup chickpea flour (besan) $3 for 16 ounces

pinch of salt pantry

2/3 cup water

1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped optional

pinch red chili pepper flakes optional

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil pantry

Estimated total cost: $3

 

DIRECTIONS

Sift the chickpea flour and salt together into a mixing bowl, using a sifter or a fine mesh strainer.

Whisk in 1/3 of the water to form a thick paste, making sure to eliminate all of the lumps. 

Whisk in the remainder of the water. The batter should look and feel like thin pancake batter.

Stir in the cilantro and chile flakes, if using.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat.

Pour the batter into the pan, jiggling the pan a little bit if necessary, to help the batter spread.

Cook the batter for 3-4 minutes, until it becomes firm and the bottom turns golden brown and crisp.

Carefully flip using the largest spatula you own, then cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes, until it also becomes golden brown and crisp.

Remove from the pan, cut into wedges, and serve.

Serves 2. 


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