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All About Self-Rising Flour

by Elizabeth Skipper | December 3rd, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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flour (400x400)I’ve seen a handful of recipes that call for self-rising flour. Is there any real purpose to buying this type of flour?  I am pretty sure that I’ve seen shortcuts for making your own at home.

I’m sure you have seen shortcuts; making your own self-rising flour is pretty straightforward.  It’s nothing more than flour with baking powder and salt added. There is one little twist, though, you may not be aware of. Popular brands like White Lily in the south, and King Arthur in the north, aren’t based on all-purpose flour. They’re made of flour with a lower protein content, which accounts for the tenderness of biscuits and pastries made with them.

If you make things like biscuits, pastries, pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and muffins often, you might enjoy the convenience of having self-rising flour on hand. The convenience, of course, comes at a price. One is that it costs more (about $1.00 more per five-pound bag); the other is that it doesn’t have a long shelf life. It’s usually a year, although it begins to lose leavening power after about three months. Proper storage is important. Like baking powder, it must be kept airtight and away from heat.

Should you lose track of how long it’s been around, you may find yourself baking something that doesn’t rise well; and then you’ll not only be disappointed in the results, but you’ll be tossing whatever remains of the flour. That’s no bargain.

To make your own self-rising flour is simple. To each cup of flour, add 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. For two pounds, scale up using 8 cups flour, 4 tablespoons of baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix thoroughly.

For best results, lower the protein content of the flour by measuring 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in the bottom of a measuring cup and then filling it with all-purpose flour. I learned this trick in cooking school, and it’s a good one to know when you don’t want to stock a lot of different flours. Works great for making pastry! If you opt to use just all-purpose flour, you may find you need to add a tad more liquid to whatever recipe you’re making.

As I’m not a fan of pancake and baking mixes because they contain ingredients I’d rather not consume, I’ll add that you can make biscuits with only two ingredients, self-rising flour and an equal amount by weight of heavy cream. This dough can be used to make a drop biscuit, or rolled out. Think how easy and handy that is next time a recipe calls for biscuit dough.

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