I’ve blogged about the flour several times already, and I recently wrote an article about mesquite flour in Texas for Edible Austin
magazine, but mesquite flour is such an interesting ingredient that I find it worth another post! The flour milled from pods harvested from trees that many people view as a weed or a parasite. This oft-maligned tree, however, has many positive qualities that make it more of a friend than enemy. Flour from the pods is only one of the many gifts offered by the lowly mesquite tree. With its warm flavor hints of cinnamon and mocha, this flour made from ground mesquite pods adds a new element of flavor one’s favorite recipes when used as part of a gluten-free flour blend. Although mesquite flour has long been used as an ingredient in the diets of indigenous people in South America and in the American Southwest, it still relatively unknown as an ingredient in the United States. The flour’s popularity is growing, however. The Desert Harvesters, a group in Arizona, is actively involved in disseminating information about the health benefits of mesquite flour, methods of harvesting the pods, and local sources where people can find the flour. The Desert Harvester’s website even lists the names of restaurants that have menu items in which the flour is used. Interest in the harvesting and milling mesquite pods from Texas mesquite trees is growing, as well. Sandeep Gyawali, of Miche Bread in Austin, is interested in generating local sources of mesquite flour to wean us off our dependency on the flour imported from other places. In fact, Gyawali is so interested in starting a home-grown Texas mesquite flour industry that he has started the Austin Mesquite Project, and with the help of some local businesses, hopes to educate people about the health properties and various uses of this unique flour.
I’m looking forward to having access to mesquite flour milled from pods native to Texas. I may even (if the readiness of the pods aligns with space in my schedule) get to participate in the foraging of this summer’s crop of mesquite pods in West Texas, with the Hesters who run Ozona Mill and Flour! In the meantime, I’m still using the imported stuff with great joy. I use it to make pasta, desserts, quick breads, and not so quick breads. It makes an especially exquisite sourdough bread. The tanginess of the sourdough combined with the spiced flavor of the mesquite flour make sourdough mesquite bread perfect for making gluten-free french toast or cinnamon bread, the tanginess cutting through some of the sweetness of these breakfast dishes so that they are pleasingly, but not overly, sweet. Phillip loves to smear slices of sourdough mesquite bread with honey butter (which I generally make by blending honey with Amish butter that contains 84% fat . . . . a butter not for those who fear fat or calories). The secret to using mesquite flour successfully is to use it in the proper amount. Used alone or in large amounts, this flour tastes bitter rather than pleasant. To be used well, the flour should replace up to and no more than 1/3 of whatever gluten-free flour blend is used for a recipe. Since mesquite flour is readily available online. The least expensive place to find it is – wait for it – AMAZON.COM. You knew that already, right? I’m not getting any money from Amazon to promote patronage of the site. I am interested in helping people locate quality ingredients for the least cost, and Amazon carries so many different brands of mesquite flour that the site makes comparing the price of each simple. Moreover, most people have an Amazon prime membership now and that removes the shipping cost from the purchase. At this point, unlike with many gluten-free flours I use, I don’t practice brand loyalty with mesquite flour. I buy whichever is least expensive at the time I need it (prices on Amazon for most things fluctuate). As long as the grind of the flour is fine, most brands of mesquite flour will work well for most recipes.
To make this mesquite sourdough bread, you will need:
375 g of strong, fed, ripe gluten-free sourdough starter
An instant read thermometer
A small (2.8 quart) Dutch oven
A commercial gluten-free flour blend may be substituted for the 125 g tapioca and 125 g superfine brown rice flour.
- 375 grams ripe gluten-free sourdough starter
- 125 grams of mesquite flour
- 125 grams of tapioca flour
- 125 grams of superfine grind brown rice flour
- 2 tablespoons evaporated sugar cane or other sugar
- 1 tablespoon liquid sunflower lecithin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 - 7 oz of water, by weight
- Line a small Dutch oven with parchment paper. Place 375 grams of sourdough starter in a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor. Weigh the flours and mix together with the salt and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to the gluten-free sourdough starter in the bowl (or food processor). Add the tablespoon of sunflower lecithin. Using a mixer fitted with dough hooks (or the dough blade in the food processor), mix the starter and flour mixture well. Weight three ounces of water and add to the dough mixture. Mix well. Continue to add water one ounce at a time, blending the mixture well after each addition. Depending upon many variables at the time you make your bread, the dough may take as few as five ounces, or as many as seven ounces, to achieve the correct consistency. Once the dough is thicker than cake mix but not as thick as gluten-containing bread dough, it's ready to be placed into the Dutch oven for proofing.
- Scape the sourdough bread dough into the paper-lined Dutch oven. With fingers dampened with water, smooth over the top of the dough. Score the top of the bread in two parallel lines across the top. Cover the top of the Dutch oven and bread dough with a shower cap. Place in a warm place, draft-free place to rise. Allow to rise about four hours. It won't quite double in size, but it will have noticeably risen as shown by the shrinking of the scores and the slightly foamy-looking surface.
- Remove the shower cap, and with a spray bottle spray the top of the dough (to create steam inside the Dutch oven as the bread bakes). Place the lid on the Dutch oven and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 375 degrees and bake about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes have passed, remove the bread from the oven, remove the lid, and check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. The bread should be nearly, but not quite at the final temperature of 210. Place the bread back into the oven without the lid, and check the internal temperature every five minutes until it reaches 210 f.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, remove the bread from the Dutch oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.