Camilla V. Saulsbury’s “The Chickpea Flour Cookbook” is a cookbook for a new generation of gluten-free eaters. As she explains in her introduction to the book, her approach is eons away from the early approaches to gluten-free baking, which usually sought to recreate the texture and flavor of gluten-based baked goods by using fillers and gums. Instead, she focuses on using whole foods, including chickpea flour, that are naturally gluten-free, rich in macro- and micro-nutrients, and, most importantly, delicious, to create recipes that occasionally mimic their gluten-based counterparts but often do not.
The book is divided into several sections, including breakfasts, breads, snacks, sides, mains, and desserts, each of which features a handful of recipes that were adapted from gluten-based dishes, ranging from Irish soda bread and buttermilk biscuits to egg-free omelets and chickpea, pumpkin, and sage gnocchi. Other recipes traditionally made with chickpea flour are also in the book, like Indian roti, French panisse fries, savory Karane, a Moroccan chickpea flan, and chickpea fudge, a play on besan ki barfi, a popular chickpea flour dessert enjoyed in India, Pakistan, and Iran.
The book touts the benefits of chickpea flour, which is made purely from ground chickpeas, making it also quite rich in protein. It’s also easy to use in recipes that usually call for pureed or blended chickpeas, like falafel.
One of the recipes from the book I attempted was the sweet potato falafel. I found it to be a cinch: instead of soaking raw chickpeas, as I usually would, the chickpea flour is added straight to the batter of pureed sweet potatoes, herbs, spices, and a touch of water, and the resulting falafel can be easily baked up in minutes. They’re full of flavor and have great texture.
I also sampled the hummus, which was admittedly less of a success. The recipe promised a super creamy hummus without the work of peeling each individual chickpea. While the hummus was easy to make, the texture was a bit gummy, and flavor-wise, the recipe called for way too much tahini, giving the resulting spread a taste far closer to sesame paste than chickpeas.
I tried two desserts – the brownies and the banana bread. The banana bread was fine – a bit dry, but definitely flavorful, and with a crumb that didn’t belie its origins.
The brownies, however, were life-changing. It appeared at first that the batter wouldn’t come together, but just as the second egg was added, it became smooth and glossy, as promised. The brownies turned out to be the best brownies I’ve ever made.
I was a bit worried in both cases, as the batter (sampled for science!) tasted strongly of chickpeas, but once baked, both recipes turned out lovely, sweet, and completely free of chickpea flavor.
Those accustomed to baking with gluten-free flours will be aware that chickpea flour is not measured the same way as all-purpose wheat flour, which is why I was happy to find that the recipes in the book featured not only volume measures, but also measures in grams. A kitchen scale is ideal for making sure that you have just the right amount of organic chickpea flour in your recipes.
With beautiful photographs and an excellent and varied selection of recipes to choose from, the "Chickpea Flour Cookbook" is great for both the gluten-free novice and the master.
Image reprinted from The ChickpeaFlour Cookbook by Camilla Saulsbury (Lake Isle Press, 2015), copyright Camilla Saulsbury.
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Cover image reprinted from The ChickpeaFlour Cookbook by Camilla Saulsbury (Lake Isle Press, 2015).
All other images Emily Monaco