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Atta (Indian Bread flour) Characteristics


Atta is an Indian whole-grain wheat flour to make flat breads (Roti). Wheat use are: Durum and Aestivum

There are various types of Atta available in Indian stores in United States

1. Durum Atta, milled from Durum Wheat.

2. Brown Atta, milled from Hard Red Wheat

3. Safed Atta, milled from Hard White Wheat

4. Chapati Atta, milled from a combination of Hard Red and Hard White wheat

5. Chakki Atta, milled by hand operated stone mill, or small electric stone mills


Wheat Milling Flour classes Varieties

Wheat has been used in India for over 5,000 years. The wheat has gone through major evolution. First major change occurred during 1960s (The Green Revolution What was the Green Revolution?) when existing species was changed to high yield 'Sharbat Sonora" dwarf species. Today there are two basic varieties of wheat produced in India to make Atta: Durum (Triticum durum Desf.) and Aestivum (Triticum Aestivum L). Aestivum is a semi hard wheat compared to hard Durum. For discussion, I will refer to Aestivum as Gehun. In India, about 90% of wheat used is Gehun. In United States, Durum is also called Semolina.


Characteristics of Atta

1. Atta is made of hard wheat. The hardness attributes to the strength or toughness that allows us to make thin Roti. Even for US breads, you need toughness to maintain shape of the bread,


2. Atta is a whole-grain flour made of the complete wheat berry (bran/fiber, endosperm/starch, and germ/protein) making Atta to be highly nutritional. Whole-grain flour is also known as Wholemeal flour.


3. Gluten makes the dough elastic (Loach). Higher level of Gluten is needed for yeast fermentation. Roti uses no yeast. Therefore, Atta does not use high gluten wheat, the gluten must be just sufficient to make dough. In general, soft wheat have low gluten compared to hard wheat. Gehun is hard wheat, Durum is harder. Both have sufficient gluten.


4. Atta needs high 'starch damage'. Higher the starch-damage, higher is the water absorption. To make dough for Roti, the starch damage should be about 15%. Stone grinding provides good acceptable levels of starch damage.

In the olden days Chakki (Hand operated stone-mill) was used to mill the wheat. Stone milling also generates high temperatures (225 F to 275 F) giving Atta an aroma of a lightly dry roast


5. The minerals in the wheat attribute to Ash level. When the Roti is made, The color of baked bread depends on the ash level. Higher the ash level, richer is the color of the bread. Wholegrain Atta has the highest level of Ash. Ash level in excess of 1.25% is considered good.


6. In the olden days color of the wheat berry was used as an indicative of the hardness. The color of Gehun varies from dull creamy white to reddish brown. Softer the grain, lighter the color, harder the grain more reddish brown the color. Durum is slightly yellow because of higher amount of  beta-carotene.

The red or white grains can both be hard or soft. Durum is always the hardest wheat berry.


7. Atta is un-bleached, un-bromated. and un-enriched.


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