Maida (from Persian: میده; [maiːda]; fine, finely) is a finely milled refined and bleached wheat flour, closely resembling cake flour or plain/all purpose flour. A white wheat flour without any bran is called maida in southern India. Its north Indian counterpart is atta, wholewheat flour. It is either naturally bleached due to atmospheric oxygen or using chemical bleaches. Maida flour (Safed Atta) is used extensively in making fast food, bakery products such as pastries and bread, varieties of sweets and in making traditional breads.
Maida is made from the endosperm (the starchy white part) of the grain. The bran is separated from the germ and endosperm which is then refined by passing through a sieve of 80 mesh per inch (31 mesh per centimeter). Although naturally yellowish due to pigments present in wheat, maida is typically bleached with any of a number of flour bleaching agents.
While it is milled from winter wheat that has a high gluten content, heat generated during the milling process results in denaturing of the protein, limiting its use in the preparation of leavened breads.
In south India, which does not have wheat farms locally, wheat is imported in trucks and rakes and then milled. A common misunderstanding is that tapioca is converted into maida, rava, atta flour, and bran.
A commonly held belief is that maida contains alloxan, added as a bleaching agent or formed as a byproduct of bleaching. While it is a minor product of xanthophyll oxidation, there is no evidence that trace amounts of alloxan thus formed comprise a health risk.
Maida is used extensively in Central Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Flatbreads such as Naan and Tandoori Roti are made using Maida. Bhatoora is a fluffy, deep-fried, leavened bread made with maida and yogurt.
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