Also Known as
Maida, all-purpose flour, refined flour
Description of Plain Flour
Maida, all-purpose flour or plain flour is extracted from the endosperm (the starchy white part) of a wheat grain. The bran is separated from the germ and endosperm which is then refined by passing through a sieve to prepare refined flour.
The flour is chemically treated(bleached) to give it a super white and smooth texture. Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached, and is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick bread, pancakes and waffles. Unbleached flour is ideal for yeast bread, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, éclairs, cream puffs and popovers.
Foods made of Maida are not considered to be particularly healthy, and health-conscious people try to replace it with whole wheat flour wherever possible. Yet, there are some sweets, bakery products and bread that call for the use of maida.
Refined flour dough is used to make Indian flatbreads like naan, kulcha and parathas. Though snacks made from Maida like Samosas, Momos, Panipuri, etc are very tempting and delicious, they are not quite healthy.
How to Select Plain Flour
• Maida is available in various pack sizes from various brands. Choose the pack size that suits your needs.
• Buy well-packed flour, pure white in colour, and smooth and powdery in texture. Avoid pale yellow-coloured flour.
• Flour is sometimes labelled as pre-sifted. This means that the flour was sifted before packaging but it compacts during shipping and handling and therefore is no longer sifted by the time you get it home. So, always sift again before use.
Culinary Uses of Plain Flour
• Plain flour is extensively used in the preparation of white breads.
• In India, maida is used to make pastries and other bakery items like bread, biscuit, toast etc.
• When used in baking, flour contributes body and structure, texture and flavour to the product. It binds the ingredients together and supports the batter.
• Flour is often used as a coating for foods that are fried. Flour-coated food develops a crisp, flavourful crust, and an interior that is tender and juicy.
• It is also used for a wide range of other purposes, from thickening sauces to baking breads, cakes, pizzas and a whole range of flour based Indian and international sweets.
• Plain flour dough is used to make unleavened Indian breads like naan, puri, paratha and chappathi.
• It can also be used to thicken sauces, creams and pie fillings.
• Plain flour is also used to dusk cake pans and counters to prevent batters and bread dough from sticking to surfaces.
• Flour can also be used to coat fruits and nuts before adding to batters, thus preventing them from sinking to the bottom of the pan when baked.
How to Store Plain Flour
• Flour is best kept in a cool, dry, dark place in a food grade, breathable jar. Plain flour can be preserved better in just breathable containers than in air-tight ones.
• Warm, damp conditions cause the flour to become caked and packed, and also encourage the growth of microorganisms, causing the flour to spoil. So, always store in a dry container in a dry place.
• Flour readily absorbs odours and moisture. So, care should be taken to ensure flour products are stored away from onions and other goods with strong odours.
• If properly stored, flour can be preserved for up to eight months. To preserve it even longer, store the flour tightly-wrapped in a refrigerator.
• Throw away the flour if you detect any bad smell or infestation by weevils.
• Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.
• Foods made out of maida are not considered to be healthy and whole wheat based foods are more preferred nowadays.
• Refined carbohydrates in foods like maida (flour), polished rice, semolina etc. have a high glycemic index.