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Monday, February 25, 2013

Sourdough Wheat Bread with Udad flour

You can add almost anything to wheat bread.  

I often find myself wandering the aisles of different stores and markets, looking for things that might be added to a loaf.  In particular, I like to peruse the international section of grocery stores, and when I can find them, ethnic stores.  The other day I had the opportunity to check out a certain Indian food store.  There are a lot of things there that make me wonder: would this go well with a Tartine-style sourdough bread?

The residents of India have been grinding up lots of things for their culinary arts for years.  In particular, today I want to look at how they grind up a certain legume and turn it into flour.  Udad flour (Udad d'Urid) is made from the so-called "black lentil," or "black gram pulse."  Wikipedia says it is ground from the whole urad bean, Vigna mungo

Is the Udad flour I found (imported by Deep) ground from the whole pulse, or is the dark husk removed before the flour is made?  From the light colour of the flour, I suspect that much of the skin has been removed prior to milling -- but I don't know.

The flour has an unusual scent when you are mixing it, quite noticeably leguminous, almost like the scent of pea stalks.  There is a sweetness to it.  Perhaps this is why Indians make sweet deserts from it, like the Udad flour laddus.  I've also seen recipes that use it to make batters for frying, or crepes, cakes and pancakes.  There are lots of things you can make with it.  Many times, it is added to wheat flour.  Khichdi, a dish with rice and lentils, seems to be one of the staples of south Asia.

An interesting blog posting by Sala at veggie belly, quoted an Indian chef who said that idli, dosa and uthappam are made with a 5:1 rice:udad fermented batter.  Idli are made on the first day, dosa on the second, and uthappam on the third.  I would assume that the difference in taste and texture achieved is due to the amount of fermentation going on; when other ingredients are added to the batter to make a completely different food, the dish obtains a completely different name.  Ah, the genius of invention and experimentation with fermented food.  It might be fun to try some of these different recipes.

But here, I am simply adding some udad flour to an ordinary sourdough whole wheat bread to see how they work together.

  • WW flour 80%
  • Udad flour 20%
  • sourdough starter 20%
  • wheat germ 5%
  • salt 2%
  • water 76%

This was the standard Tartine sourdough method.

But I was gone to the post office and grocery store when the dough was quite done bulk fermenting.  By the time I got it into the baskets to proof, the dough was becoming flaccid.  There must be a lot of proteases in the Udad flour.  Or else it ferments a lot faster than the wheat flour.

In any case, I had no great belief that this bread would turn out.  The dough felt gummy, and wouldn't hold its shape.  Nevertheless, I put it in a heavily floured basket with a few flax seeds in the bottom, and set it in the cold garage.  My intention was to bake it sooner than later.  My original idea was to bake it in the morning, but the dough was fermenting too fast, so I felt that even 2 hours in a cold garage was going to be too long.

Regarding Udad
"Pulsecanada" describes udad flour as "moderately tasteless", with 24% protein, 59.6% carbohydrate, and 1.4% fat.  But it also states that some varieties of black gram may be defatted.

The nutritional info on the back of the Deep flour bag was woefully inadequate to satisfy my own curiosity.*  Furthermore, I was quite surprised that I could not find much nutritional info on Udad flour on the Internet.  The pulse that this flour is made from is one of the staples of the poorest people who thrive on a vegetarian diet in South Asia.  And yet, very little is known about its specific nutritional qualities.  It hasn't been studied to the same extent as many other parts of the human diet.  It is generally assumed to be a good source of protein, but one continuously comes across warnings that overeating it may promote flatulence.

In the absence of western chemical science, which might take apart the legume completely to discover its makeup in vitamins and minerals, and thereby learn how these affect humans in vivo, we get traditional Ayurvedic medicine, which has centuries of anecdotal evidence regarding the many properties of urad, and its flour, udad.  Yet if that is where I must go for information, so be it.

The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia (Tirtha, S. (1998) The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia: Natural secrets to healing prevention and longevity. Ayurveda Holistic centre Press, Bayville, NY) says this of the "black gram (Masha)," in its section on legumes:

Black Gram (Masha) Energetics: Sweet, astringent/cold/sweet P- V+ K+ mildly Action: Nutritive, demulcent, aphrodisiac, nervine tonic, lactogogue Indications: The most strengthening bean, diarrhea, dysentery, indigestion, hemorrhoids, arthritis, paralysis, liver disorders, cystitis, rheumatism. Increases semen and breast milk. Externally —plaster for arthritis/joint pain. **

As with other legumes, "they combine well with grains for a staple food, containing all the eight essential amino acids…"

I did find one interesting article (Karakoy, T. (2012). Diversity of Macro- and Micronutrients in the seeds of Lentil Landraces.  Sc World J. 10.1100/710412, 9pp.) which studied the macro and micro nutrients of various lentil varieties, especially wild varieties, which the very poor tend to use as staples in their diet.  It states that "lentil is the fourth most important pulse (legume) crop in the world after bean, pea and chickpea" but that "on average, global pulse consumption is in decline, but lentil consumption is increasing faster than human population growth."  Again, this tells us little of the specific udad or urad flour I found, but the article does point out that a lot of the variation in nutrients in lentils mostly comes from the soil it is grown on.

IF the udad flour is made from a typical lentil, it may or may not have nutrients in more or less these quantities (I have combined Karakov's means with pulsecanada's info, but I wouldn't take any of these values as gospel.  It just gives a ballpark number):

  • Carbohydrate: ~59.6%
  • Protein: ~25%
  • Fiber: ~22%
  • Fat: ~ 1.4%
  • Micronutrients:
    • Potassium      0.8% 
    • Phosphorous  0.385% 
    • Calcium         0.154%
    • Magnesium    0.1%
    • Sodium          0.0398%
    • Zinc               0.0055% 
    • Iron                0.0038% 
    • Niacin            0.002%
    • Copper           0.0012%
    • Manganese     0.0013% 
    • Thiamin          0.00042%
    • Riboflavin       0.0002%
    • Vitamin C       0%
Despite claims that I've seen for lentil's relatively high folate levels, I've found no specific information on it.

I didn't have high expectations for this bread, especially since it smelled so weird when mixing it, and especially since it sagged so much and was so gummy when shaping it.  And I felt it was too fermented because the gluten kept tearing.

Despite that: this was a very good bread.  The final scent of the loaf was not too leguminous; the taste was not too beaney.  The crumb was moist, the crust not too rigid.  The bread was good with cheese, and with nut butters, and with tomato based spreads.  Quite a well-rounded loaf.

Notes to Myself
  • Although this is not a traditional Indian bread, you could certainly look to Indian cuisine for ideas on how to improve it.  Spices could be added to this bread for other taste ideas, with little trouble: cayenne, fenugreek, turmeric, or basically whatever suits your fancy.  If flatulence is a problem Ayurveda has remedies for that: ginger, catkins, etc.
  • As usual, grinding the whole lentil for your own flour is going to be healthier, I assume, than using some pre-milled legumes.  I like the idea of whole foods.  Before going to Veggiebelly's web site, I'd never seen those unique wet grinders.  I'm not convinced I need one, but they look cool.
  • ** The P, V and K named in the quotation from the Ayurvedic Encyclopedia above refer to the 3 constitutions, or doshas: air (Váyu), fire (Pitta), and water (Kapha), whose balance can get pretty complicated in Ayurvedic medicine.   I respect this tradition, admitting that I don't understand it.  However, the pronouncements Ayurveda makes on ingredients don't seem to have the same kind of rigor of scientific testing that the best western science has -- but that might only be my own bias, born of cultural blinders and ignorance.  I've seen bad western science, with very poorly designed tests, whose results are misleading.  I suspect there is both good and bad info in Ayurveda too.  As with all things, test it for yourself and see if your results are consistent with what is said to be known.
  • * If you can't make out the crappy picture above (I couldn't):
    Nutrition facts
    serving Size 1/4 cup (30g)
    servings per container about 30

    Amount Per serving

    Calories 113  Calories from Fat 9
                                 % Daily Value *
    Total Fat 1 g        2%
    saturated Fat 0g   0%
    trans fat 0g
    Cholesterol 0mg   0%
    Sodium 25mg       1%
    Total Carbohydrate 19g 6%
    Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
    sugars 1g
    Protein 7g

    Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 0%
    Calcium 0% Iron 15%
    * Percent Daily values are based on a 1200 calorie diet.  Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs

    Calories per gram
    Fat 9  Carbohydrate 4  Protein 4

    Nutrition Information  ??

    Typical Values   Per 100g
    Energy  1604kj/382Kcal
    Protein  23.3g
    Carbohydrates 63.2g
    of which sugars 3.3g
    Fat 3.3g
    of which saturated 0.0g
    Fiber  13.3g
    sodium < 1.0g
    Cholesterol 0.0g
    Trans fat 0.0g


  1. Not really related to bread, but because you are interested in urad: (and you probably have already read this online:) Indian stores also have urad in grain form (hulled and split). Those are the ones, along with rice grains, I soak for 4-8 hours, then grind with minimal water and ferment for 12-18 hours to make dosa. I don't think urad flour is used very commonly. I believe that urad is the catalyst for the fermentation of the rice-urad batter.
    I tried using sorghum flour (called Jowar in India) in my bread yesterday, but in very little quantity, 25 g to 315 g of whole wheat, not enough to make much difference.

  2. I m looking for the whole wheat bread recipe with urd dal. This is the only recipe i got it. Thanks for sharing it.I always wonder we wet grind and do a nice streamed cake(idli) Why not do it for wheat.just want to mix up the ideas.I think Urad is very good in with wild natural yeast.
    I recently doing research with Fruit yeast water. So going to try your recipe with Fruit yeast water instead of sourdough starter

    Can you give me the recipe in cups/weight measurements. The % listing is little confusing for me.

    1. As far as cups go, I can't be specific. This recipe works for 2 loaves, and if you add a zero to the percentages, you have the weight in grams. If you just want to try one loaf, it's half that. So, for each loaf:

      ww flour: 400g (ie. 80% is 800g/2)
      udad 100g
      sourdough starter 100g
      wheat germ 25g
      salt 10g
      water 380g

      These are free standing loaves, so if you are baking it in a tin, you probably will want to adjust it upwards a bit. If you are using urad dahl itself and not the flour, the weights would be the same, but any volume measurements I could give you would be way off. And remember, the weights themselves are not set in stone. Experiment. If you like more lentils, add more lentils. I kept it to 80% whole wheat because of the free-standing loaf: it required the gluten to hold itself together. Good luck and have fun.