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Redefining refined flour

Maida comes to fore every festival! How? Why? Well, Holi means loads of homemade snacks that need maida – puri, mathri, namakpara, gujiya etc. (Diwali is another case study - some other time!

india Updated: Mar 02, 2010 16:43 IST
Sanjeev Kapoor

Maida comes to fore every festival! How? Why? Well, Holi means loads of homemade snacks that need maida – puri, mathri, namakpara, gujiya etc. (Diwali is another case study - some other time! Maida, or refined flour, is a part of wheat flour that has no germ or bran. It is whiter, finer than wheat flour. Hence, it has more elasticity and has a longer shelf life and is used vastly for snacks and likes.

As these few paras are not meant to dwell on nutritional values et al, I will not do so. We all hear (even I do campaign more for wheat flour!) that maida is not as good for health as wheat flour is. But maida does have those properties that scientifically produce better breads, biscuits and what you like more… Cakes, pastries, pies and doughnuts!

So as the case today weighs heavily toward the refined flour, let us make good use of it. I love the way the dough stretches when making roomali roti. Traditional recipe, and cannot get the same results with only wheat flour. Samosas and kachoris have their crisp jackets made of maida and waffles, pancakes and cakes get their soft light texture because of the white flour.

Great bread maker
Maida also helps the other flours along. In my recipe bajre ki roti with raw banana stuffing, the bajra flour simply would not cooperate in holding the stuffing and then rolling. So the next best help was maida and voila, we got it right. The Singaporean staple roti prata is only maida with fat and sugar but the flaky layers are amazingly absorbent when dipped in curry. Reminiscent of our naan. Our very own Sanjori, the sweet roti from Konkan, is based on refined flour as is the Maharashtrian delicacy puranpoli.

Multi-purpose power
What else can maida do in the kitchen besides ruling over pizza, pita and pav?

It can be filled up in a salt shaker with large holes and use it to dust flour in cake tins or while rolling out pastry etc.

You just bought a ready cake mix and want to make a bigger cake than specified? Add half cup flour, half cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Your fruit cakes have fruits lining the bottom of the cake? No problems: first coat the raisins, or dry fruits, or candied fruits well with maida. Then add to batter of the cake or pudding. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom while baking.

Half fried egg sticks to the pan? Heat the fat, sprinkle a dash of flour and then add the egg that is to be fried.

Do the sausages split on frying? Roll them in flour first then sauté. It’s a case of roll ‘n’ rock.
Your hot sauce is too thin? Blend one teaspoon of soft butter into one teaspoon of flour. Beat into the hot sauce off the heat. Beat till smooth. Then return to heat and simmer.

Your cake is ready and out on the wire rack to cool. Now is the time to sprinkle it with a little bit of flour because if this cake is refrigerated the layer of flour will take the formation of the ice cover and protect the cake from early spoilage.

Your cake is ready and out on the wire rack to cool. No, read on, this is a different tip. Now is the time to sprinkle it with a bit of flour because it will help the icing to stick.

Got too much maida? Place in zip lock bags and refrigerate. Keeps the weevils away.

Change is inevitable
There are changes in the offing and wheat flour will take over at some stage, but let it be known that refined flour can be moulded and rolled and shaped into some great breads, rotis, samosas and kachoris! Have a bite of this.

– Master Chef, Author, Television Host.