Maida is a finely milled refined and bleached wheat flour, closely resembling cake flour. It is either naturally bleached due to atmospheric oxygen or using chemical bleaches. Maida flour 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). Originally yellowish due to pigments present in wheat, maida is 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, 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. Maida is used as an adhesive for wall posters in India. In South India maida is used for making "Parotas", which are commonly served with gravy. Pastry flour may be used as a substitute for maida.