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Atta Flour - Yes, You Can!

tpassin's picture

Atta Flour - Yes, You Can!

Atta flour is a general type of flour used in India and other nearby countries for making rotis (aka chapattis, basically similar to flour tortillas).  It is often said that atta flour cannot be used for making bread (TFL has several posts on bread made with atta, but since the term covers a wide range of flours, it's hard to know how comparable they were to the flour used in this post).  Why not, and how true is it?

Atta can be made from different kinds of wheat and with different methods, but two characteristics are consistently emphasized: it is very finely ground, and it has a large amount of damaged starch.  The starch is supposedly what makes it unsuitable for making bread.  The damaged starch is probably a byproduct of the extra-fine milling, which was originally done at home using a small stone mill.  It has the effect of absorbing a lot of water, which helps the rotis be soft and flexible.

Atta is often made from durum wheat, but is also ground from non-durum varieties.  Durum or not, these wheats are usually claimed to have high protein levels. These kinds of atta flour are often labeled as being "whole wheat", and sometimes as having extra bran added as well.

In the US and Canada, atta flours are available made in Canada under the "Golden Temple" brand.  In some Indian or south asian groceries some Indian brands are offered as well.  I was able to buy a 10- lb bag of Sujata "Chakki Atta 100% Whole Wheat" flour. The word "Chakki" is supposed to denote being stone-ground.  I mention the 10-lb size because all the other varieties I could find were sold in 10 kg size, which is way too large for my use.

An interesting factoid is that the Sujata flour is an Indian brand (of General Mills India) but is labeled as being a product of the UAE.

Both the Golden Temple durum and the Sujata flours were indeed very fine.  All the flour except 5% - 10% passed through a #50 screen.  The remaining bran particles were still small enough to go through a #40 screen, so they are much finer than the bran I see in most other stone or roller ground whole wheats.

So enough about the flours - here are picture's of today's bake using 300g total flour, of which 80% is the Sujata Chakki atta, and with a 23% starter inoculation. 


 So can you make decent bread with atta flour?  What do you think? I think this is about as good a boule as I have baked in a long time.  This loaf is moist and delicious, with a rich wheat flavor enhanced by just a hint of a sour tang. It begs you to cut thick slices and butter them.

As for the flour mix, I planned to have 20% be King Arthur's bread flour.  But I grabbed a container of masa hariña by mistake and started adding it.  When I realized, I scooped out as much as I could, but masa hariña and this atta flour look almost exactly the same and I might have scooped out a little atta too.  Anyway, there were still 30g extra flour which must have been mostly masa hariña.  To get to the target weight of 300g, I could only add 30g (10% baker's percent) of bread flour.

I had also sifted out 8g of that fine bran, and I soaked that in water for a few hours before adding it into the dough during the first stretch and fold session. The flour soaked up a lot of water, and with the addition of the soaker the dough was very wet.  But it improved during bulk ferment, getting less wet and sticky.  I did a total of four S&Fs.

The overall hydration including starter and soaker was 97%

This dough was slow to ferment, and two earlier atta loaves I made using GT atta and a higher percentage of bread flour were also very slow.  I'm guessing that this might be because the atta flour isn't malted.  At any rate, bulk ferment was about done after nine hours and it was too late to continue so I put the dough into the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning I made a preform, rested for only 10 minutes, and shaped the loaf.  The loaf was able to proof free-standing. It seemed to have proofed enough in an hour, and I scored it and baked with initial steam.

After the time I would usually bake a loaf of this size, it looked done but the interior temperature was only 195 deg F/90.6C so I reduced the oven setting from 425 deg F to 375 deg F/190C for another 5 minutes.  The final interior temperature was 209 deg F/98.3C.  The crumb still retained a lot of water, though, and this caused a little softening of the crust.



squattercity's picture

👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼that is a beautiful bread.

tpassin's picture

Thanks!  I'm very happy with it, and the flavor is heavenly too.

tpassin's picture

I mentioned that other TFLers have tried atta durum flour too.  Here's @alfonso back from 2020 with the most gorgeous baguettes ever -

JonJ's picture

Well done on taming the beast, Tom. Impressive.

I haven't had as much success with high atta as you. I was using Indian atta (and not Semolina).

Fabulous and cheap flour for making naan and rotis and other flat breads with the right texture and texture. 

By the way, there was a period when the Indian government banned the export of wheat, not sure if that is still a problem.

tpassin's picture

This product, although sold by General Mills India,  was labeled as made in the UAE.  The type of wheat is supposedly only grown in one state in India (see below).  I did find out that in India there are two types of wheat that are often used in atta flour (not counting durum).  One is called "Sharbati", and the Times Of India had this to say about it:

This wheat comes exclusively from the Sehore region in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The soil of the region is rich in potash and it receives an adequate amount of rain, cultivating a golden wheat grain that is richer in protein content when compared to other types of wheat. The grains feel heavier and have a nutty flavour, making soft and tasty chapatis that are also healthier

 The Sujata atta I used is said on the GMI website to be made from sharbati wheat.

albacore's picture

I once got a small bag of Sharbati atta in the UK; it made tasty chapattis, though I wouldn't say it was particularly strong - I added some bread flour to give it a bit more gluten.

Regarding durum atta, I suspect this is only available in the US and Canada. I have never found any in the UK and I don't think it exists in India either.


tpassin's picture

(Durum Whole Wheat Flour and Wheat Bran - Also known as bhalia chappati flour.
Used for making Indian chapatis, rotis, parathas and puris.
Product of India)

Other than this I didn't find anything online about Indian-made durum atta flour. A lot of durum wheat is grown in India, however.




albacore's picture

Indian durum production is about 1.2-1.5 million tons out of a global 38 million tons, so not insignificant, but I searched for durum atta on and found nothing, so I guess most of the Indian durum goes for pasta production.

Though, interestingly, you can buy emmer (Khapli) atta!



tpassin's picture

I read that India claims to be the largest emmer producer in the world.

alcophile's picture

Idaveindy had number posts where he used atta flour.

Isand66's picture

That’s a great looking crust and crumb.  How was the flavor?  Is it similar to a durum flour in flavor?

tpassin's picture

Thanks, Ian,

The flavor was outstanding but not that similar to durum.  It sported a rich wheaty flavor that I liked very much.

For anyone planning to try this, remember that I accidentally put 10% of masa harina into the mix.  That would have soaked up a lot of extra water.  If it isn't there, I'm pretty sure the water would have to be reduced.

louiscohen's picture

Beautiful overall, and the elegant scoring deserves special notice.

I experimented with atta, similar to yours.  It's no problem finding atta in the USA in any city with a university noted for STEM subjects (UCSD  here).  My breads were just so-so and I went back to King Arthur hoping to eliminate one variable.  

Now that I have more practice with Hamelman's 100% Whole Wheat "Workday" Bread maybe I'll try the atta again - it does have an aroma and flavor different from regular US whole wheat flour. 

tpassin's picture

Thanks for the kind words!

One thing I've been learning is that all atta flours are not the same. This particular type is turning out to be outstanding. And its flavor seems richer than other whole wheats I have tried. It also makes for good rotis (not that I am very good at them, nor know what they should "really" be like).

ws.hicks's picture

I was just on the look for a new pack of fine-ground whole wheat as the coarse-ground is running out and it was not to my liking, only to realized that no local brands here sell it and the import brands are just way too expensive than I'm comfort to pay, and that's when Atta flour came up. They're as cheap as other local brands here, so I thought, there must be a catch, right? (Also the fact that they are specifically called Atta flour when it is not a brand's name) Stumbling upon your post is godsend, since I rarely made 100% whole wheat loaf anyway, so Atta or not, it shouldn't affect my loaf too much.

Thanks again, tpassin!