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07 November 2006

flour as dark as Seattle skies in November


black rice flour, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out. Did you know you can make your own rice flour?

For over a year, I dutifully bought expensive bags of rice flour, trying to find ways to save on what has become a staple in my kitchen. Of all the gluten-free flours, rice is the least expensive. (Have you bought a bag of quinoa flour lately?) Thank goodness, because rice flour is the one I use most often in baking. Still, it's pricey to buy it.

Then, a couple of months ago, I went into the Chef's kitchen to ask him a question. We were working in the restaurant in the afternoon, before anyone came in, he in his tiny rectangular kitchen, me on the couch by the door, writing. When I went in, I saw him dump the last of his white rice flour into a bowl, in preparation to make a gluten-free dessert. When he saw he didn't have quite enough, he pulled out his spice grinder.

"What are you doing?" I said, puzzled.
"Making rice flour," he said with assurance, as though I had seen him do this a thousand times.

Wow. You'd think that with all this writing and cooking and experimenting with gluten-free food, I would have thought of this long ago. I love this man.

Since then, I have simply made all my own rice flour, in small doses, as I need them. Certainly, I don't always have flour as superfine as the commercially produced ones. But they are fresh, and cheap, and mine. (Besides, if you put the rice flour through an old-fashioned flour sifter, the final product is gleaming fine like sand worn down by waves.) Different rices make different kinds of flours, of course. Arborio rice, full of starch, makes an especially crunchy flour, which isn't always great for baking. Short, sweet rice makes fantastic soft flour. I'm loving the playing.

A few weeks ago, the Chef and I bought some "forbidden" rice in the bulk section of PCC. This black rice comes originally from China. Legend has it that is called forbidden because no one but the emperors of ancient China were allowed to eat it. Those pesky rulers hoarded the rice because it was so rich in nutrition that they felt no one else but them deserved it. That may be a story put out by the peasants, but the fact is — this is a beautiful rice. Black in its raw state, it cooks up a rich purple. It is high in iron and simply tastes healthy. And lovely.

The evening we bought it, as an experiment, I started grinding it into a flour, which turns ashy grey, with little glimmers of purple and shiny white. It makes a dramatic and delicious dredging for fish.

Last week, we ate one of the best dinners I have ever eaten, in our living room, at midnight. The Chef dredged thick slices of black cod in this black rice flour and laced it with wasabi. On the side, jasmine rice that had been steamed with chunks ginger and lemongrass. Topping it all was a tamari-butter sauce. I screamed after I took my first bite, "Oh god, will you marry me?" Even the Chef, who likes to say that is food is "just okay," made moany noises when he ate this. We both agreed — black rice flour on white fish from now on.

25 Comments:

At 3:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regular grocery stores rice flour is indeed much more expensive than wheat flour. However, try going to Seattle's Chinatown (I assume Seattle has one). In Boston's Chinatown I go to the Chinese grocery and get rice flour and glutinous rice flour for 40-50 cents/pound.

"Glutinous" rice flour does not contain wheat gluten. It just makes a stickier paste.

 
At 4:18 AM, Blogger madre-terra said...

I love the idea of grinding one's own rice flour. I am going to try that.
I have had a lame finger and unable to type for a week. Imagine the horror of it all? I wanted you to know that I loved your post about Chef and your love for each other. It was a great post. I love a good love story. Congratulations.

 
At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Suzanne said...

This sounds like an incredibly neat idea ... but I don't mean to be a complete idiot. Do you just take the flour, raw, no rinsing -- and just grind it up in the coffee grinder? I'm assuming this is the technique -- and can't wait to try! I have some Forbidden flour on my shelf, awaiting my courage to try my hand at a wonderful, sticky sweet Thai dessert: Kao Niow Dahm. Have you ever made it? Had it?

 
At 5:28 AM, Blogger lee said...

I don't suppose you're willing to turn that into a full recipe? I could wing it but I'm fairly certain I'm not as talented as the chef. If not, just tell me do you need to dip the fish in anything before the rice flour to make sure it sticks? And is there just tamari and butter in the sauce or is it actually more complex than that? It does sound amazing and I would love to try it.

 
At 5:59 AM, Blogger Eh... Not so much said...

Oh, I am so trying this. Thanks!

 
At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you ever go to the Indian grocery stores? Rice flour is generally plenty and quite affordable! You can also pick up a bag of besan flour (chickpeas) and other variety of ground lentils.

 
At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea - I have pondered trying this but haven't done it. Hmmm... I have one of those old flour grinders, but it has been used for wheat flour years ago. I suppose I could clean it? Love the black rice - my family isn't as thrilled though but I might just make some for dinner tonight. Thanks for the idea!

 
At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea - I have pondered trying this but haven't done it. Hmmm... I have one of those old flour grinders, but it has been used for wheat flour years ago. I suppose I could clean it? Love the black rice - my family isn't as thrilled though but I might just make some for dinner tonight. Thanks for the idea!

 
At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Karen said...

I love making my own toasted rice powder for a good Lao or Thai laap. But no spice grinder here in my Chiang Mai kitchen, just the traditional mortar and pestle. It's a sound I wake to every morning, the continual thunk, thunk, thunk of a neighbor in the kitchen, pounding. I've grown to love that sound.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger tschoerda said...

wow, now that sounds incredible. i definitely have to try this. it never occured to me that you could make flour of anything other than cereal. in austria "flour" is usually ony from wheat or rye. even spelt is really exotic ... i MUST try this rice flour now. i can eat gluten, but i am always willing to try something new and enrich my diet. and while i am on the subject: your blog is a true inspiration for me.

have a nice day!

 
At 10:39 AM, Anonymous gaile said...

what a great idea, and I bet it looks gorgeous on the fish! I might have to make just that meal for myself and the Budgie this week! I love that you and the Chef are so in love with each other, and with food. I'm hoping to come to his restaurant in a few weeks - do you think he could accomodate a diner who is no gluten, no dairy, no meat, minimal nightshades, but yes fish?

 
At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would a coffee grinder work the same as a spice grinder? I have one I use for flax seeds, so there would be no coffee flavor to the flour, not that that would be all bad;)!

 
At 4:34 PM, Anonymous knitdds said...

Shauna, your site makes me hungry, and I'm not celiac! Best of luck with the book. . .although your blog is so entertaining, I'm sure it will be wonderful. . .

Cheers

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, rice flour is quite inexpensive in Indian stores. In India, most families make rice flour at home. We wash rice with water, dry it overnight on a clean cloth, grind it in a blender, sieve it, and run the not-so-fine stuff again in the blender until smooth. But this is my mother's story.

My grandmother used to make rice flour with a mortar and pestle! She had a huge stone mortar and a long(as tall as a human), thick wooden pestle with which she'd rhythmically pound the rice in a left,shift-to-right-hand,shift-to-left-hand swinging motion. It was beautiful to watch.

And i buy my rice flour in Indian stores...sigh. Often i wonder what i'm running after. My grand mother was a true picture of serenity even while doing boring, every day chores. And i'm a true picture of impatience ;), because a million other chores are usually waiting to be done and i can't focus on what i'm doing at that moment.

I'm glad you're savoring evey moment of your life. It's hard for many people, to live in the moment.

 
At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen that black rice in our local Asian supermarket (though not ground into flour). Always wondered what it'd be like in recipes. A few people have recommended a home flour mill for me, and I may end up getting one yet, because you are so right about the cost of all these GF ingredients. If you can grind your own and save half or more; great. And, more variety is at hand that way too. Always nice reading about your experiments in these areas.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK Shauna, my Hawaiian co-worker just shared an awesome idea.
Toast the black rice in a little sesame oil in a skillet, cool, and then grind it up!
One more flavor layer for such yummy sounding cod!

 
At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried making the black rice. My kids were not thrilled with purple food! LOL Even my husband and I decided to mix it with a less "toothy" rice next time. But I bet it is healthy.

 
At 1:36 AM, Blogger Rose said...

In China black rice is actually used often for sweet sticky rice desserts (which are WONDERFUL).

Most chinese restaurants in the US unfortunately don't make these sorts of desserts. Too bad, because they're often laced with orange peel and ginger...refreshing.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger Shauna said...

Anonymous,

Good tip about the International Districts in town. Yes, Seattle has an excellent array of options. I actually do shop there sometimes, but I know that most people don't seek that out. yet.

Madre-Terra,

so sorry to hear about your finger. Thank you for your congratulations. This really does feel like a blessed time to both of us.

Suzanne,

You're not a complete idiot! I just wrote this anecdotally, and I'm realizing I should have done a recipe for it, since most people have also not encountered this idea. I would probably rinse the rice first, then dry it, then grind it up. (However, I have certainly been known to grind it right from the package, and I didn't suffer.) That Thai dessert? Wow. Will you send me a recipe?

Lee,

Oh dear, I'm not quite sure what he did. Sometimes I follow him around the kitchen, taking notes. But late at night, he just tells me to sit down and wait for him. I don't think he dips the fish in anything. He just dredges it in the flour (sometimes he adds wasabi powder into it as well). I'm sure there is more than tamari and butter in the sauce, but he's sleeping right now. I'll ask him and get back to you!

eh, not so much,

Let me know how it goes!

Begnali Chick,

I haven't been recently, so I'm eager to make another trip. A friend of mine keeps promising to take me.... But you are right. Indian grocery stores are an excellent source for gluten-free foods.

Dee,

If you can clean that out with no hint of doubt, then use it! I wish I had a flour grinder. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's one looming in the distance for our kitchen.

Karen,

That's a beautiful sound description. I wish that I had the patience to use only a mortar and pestle. That might be coming soon as well.

Tschoerda,

Thank you so much. And I love how bold and adventerous you are with food. You recently discovered the persimmon! I love the work you do.

Gaile,

I asked him, and he said, "No problem." He amazes me. You will have a fabulous meal, I can guarantee it.

ljallbee,

Oh yes! In fact, I do use a coffee grinder, made by Braun, for this. We have one we dedicated to spices, so I call it the spice grinder.

Knitdds,

Thank you so much. I'm doing what I can, but I'm approaching the one-month mark until the manuscript is due! I'm biting my nails over here. (Thank goodness those are gluten-free.)

Anonymous,

Wow. That truly is one of the most beautiful comments I have ever read. You are a writer, whoever you are. Next time, would you leave your name so I can address you personally?

MIke,

I think you -- like me -- need a grain mill immediately!

Anonymous,

Not only does that sound fantastic, but when I read it to the Chef, he went out and bought some sesame oil immediately. I'll let you know how it goes.

Anonymous,

Oh, sorry the kids don't like purple food. It must be an acquired taste. If you make it with some spices and butter in the water (try ginger and lemongrass, for example), it makes it even better. Keep trying.

Rose,

I love sweet sticky rice desserts. Orange peel and ginger? I am there!

 
At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your website! I can't wait to read your book! Since reading this I found that Lundberg Farms has Black Japonica rice which a combo of black rice and wild mahogany rice. I grinded it in my food processor, it took awhile, the black rice turns to powder but the wild rice just breaks into pieces. Makes for great a texture, though! I cooked it for breakfast: 1/4 cup of rice and 2 cups of water. Simmer for 15-25 minutes depending on how smooth you want it. I sometimes drizzle Agave Nectar on top while it is cooling in my bowl. Yum, purple cereal!

 
At 5:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

guys, just came across this blog, thot id drop in a line saying gluten free foods are now available in India too... u can read more and also order at www.sunirafoods.com

this company is currently making gluten free flour, sooji, dalia, cake mix, browine mix, cookies and milk free protein powder.. its worth checking out.. mayb u cud even pass on d link to anyone u kno frm india on a gf diet! it may help them :)

 
At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Deborah said...

Shauna,

The first few pages (available on Amazon) of your new book were delightful! I thought you were describing the house I grew up in :) I'm hoping for a copy of your book for Christmas!!

I really enjoy this blog as well. I've already passed on the addy to family members who are gluten-intolerant. You have an obvious talent for writing well, which makes reading about your passion for food even more enjoyable.

I gave up wheat/gluten-things about a month ago, and after the first few days felt like I woke up from a year-long nap (the brain fog cleared)! My stomach troubles also almost all disappeared! I'm not sure yet if I am officially "gluten-intolerant," but have decided to stay away from the stuff for a few months regardless.

Anyway, I made rice flour using my wheat grinder. I threw away a few batches before using any to make certain I got all the wheat out of it (I was the best darn whole wheat bread baker in the area and really miss giving loaves as gifts!). I also just passed some tapioca balls through the grinder (the grinder had a harder time with these, and i'll only do half-batches of these from now on). I'm not certain yet if these flours are the same thing, or able substitutions, for flours called for in gluten-free recipes.

If you know anything about whether rice flour or tapioca flour made in the grinder is the same product, give or take, that you'd find in the package, I'd love to know.

You would probably love to have a mill. I use a NutriMill (the new version of the old WhisperMills) and it makes about 10 cups of flour in just a few minutes. I saved money back when I was only making wheat flour, and wheat flour is cheap compared to the insane cost of gluten-free flours. I bet you'd save a lot of money by milling your own flour. And if you do start milling all your own flour, please post about your experiences so we can all learn from you!

Thanks for sharing your life with us.

 
At 3:48 PM, Anonymous anglica said...

You just saved me a trip to the store. I googled your website when I wondered if I could make it for a Korean recipe instead of buying it! Now I have to find something to grind it with.

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Vita said...

Hey, I couldn't STAND the idea of trying to get all the coffee out of my coffee grinder (hopeless!), and I often grind up rice for Hot Rice Cream Cereal (delicious!!), so I thought I'd give the trusty old blender a try, and it worked FINE - and I do mean FINE. My flour is every bit as fine as the expensive (stale) store-bought rice flour. I used sweet brown rice this time. The blender takes a few minutes, and a good stir, then another few minutes, but a small price to pay for fresh rice flour.

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous shirley said...

how about using a vita mix machine if you have one for grinding flour.
...just don't grind too long in it, as it cooks if you do.

also tip for cleaning your coffee grinder, or spice grinder:
put a slice of bread in it broken up, you will have a clean grinder.
shirley

 

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