Self rising flour is a mixture made up of regular flour, baking powder and salt. You can make your own by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt. The leavening power of the baking powder is mixed evenly throughout the flour, so you will automatically get that nice rise out of your baked goods every time you use self rising flour.
Flour is a pretty basic term that we have all heard of, but there are actually hundreds of varieties of flour out there. Self rising flour is one of the more interesting types of flour. It's no longer as popular as it was a hundred years ago, but many old recipes still call for it, and you may stumble upon it in current recipes (especially Southern recipes) here and there. We have all the information you need to know about self rising flour and how to best utilize this amazing resource below! Keep reading to learn all about baking with self rising flour.
History of Self Rising Flour
Where did self rising flour come from? It actually has an interesting past. Self rising flour was invented in England in the 1800s, as a way for sailors to create better baked goods while on board. In a way, it's kind of a cheat product, as it is simply a mixture of other already-existing ingredients, but either way, it worked for the English baker who sold a ton of it on British ships! In 1849, he patented the “invention” in the United States, which eventually led to the creation of mass-market baking mixes.
What Does It Mean to “Rise”?
This is an important clarification before we get into the weeds, or should I say grains? With self rising flour. Rising is a vital part of the baking process when you are working with batter or dough, and it is key to get it right for your recipe. There are a few different ways that you can leaven or raise your breads and pastries to get the fluffy, chewy, airy, or flaky texture that you want, depending on the recipe. Leavening agents include yeast, of course, in addition to some chemical agents like baking soda and baking powder. These two are important in the context of self rising flour. Baking soda is a very basic source, and it combines with the acid in other ingredients (lemon juice, buttermilk, etc.) to give off gases that create little pockets in your dough. Once the dough is baked, the gases dissipate in the hot temperatures and leave behind the structure created by those little gas bubbles. This entire process is called leavening and is a key step in the baking process. Baking powder, on the other hand, is baking soda that has already been mixed with an acidic ingredient and fillers or starches. You can typically use a baking powder right out of the carton, and there are two varieties made for different types of recipes. Keep this in mind as we delve deeper into what self rising flour is and its purpose in baking.
What Is the Benefit of Self Rising Flour?
If you use self rising flour in your baked goods recipes that call for this product, you will see that your cakes and breads always rise perfectly, and more importantly, that you get a consistent rise every time. These recipes do not even call for a leavening agent in addition to the self rising flour. However, only some recipes call for self rising flour, such as pancakes, some breads, biscuits and a few others.
How and When to Use Self Rising Flour
Outside of those pre-made mixes, however, self rising flour definitely has its own uses as well. Self rising flour is perfect for things like those products mentioned above, including quick breads and pancakes. Southerners in the United States love to use self rising flour, as it is perfect for that flaky golden biscuit. You will sometimes see recipes for cakes or cupcakes that require self rising flour as well!
When Not to Use Self Rising Flour
Self rising flour should only be used for its specific purpose, however. The leavening agents in self rising flour are only right in specific recipes with specific ingredients combinations. Baking is all about the interactions of the ingredients, so substituting the wrong type of flour can be a hindrance to your final desired result.
- Do not use self rising flour with yeast-raised breads or sourdough.
- As a general rule, you probably do not want to use self rising flour if there is another leavening agent called for in the recipe, such as yeast or baking soda. The leavening in the self rising flour should be enough.
- Do not substitute self rising flour in your recipes without paying close attention to the rest of the recipe. Typically you will want to use the ingredients listed in the recipe or follow careful instructions when substituting an ingredient as important as flour.
How to Make Your Own Self Rising Flour
Perhaps the best part of self rising flour is that you can actually make it at home yourself. As we mentioned before, the self rising flour mixture is often somewhere around:
- 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Fine Salt
If you have a recipe calling for self rising flour and you do not have any in the pantry, just pull out the ingredients that you most likely already have. We do not recommend testing with other flours besides all purpose, but you can make tons of recipes this way! On the other hand, if your recipe calls for these three ingredients and you have self rising flour but may be out of baking powder, for instance, you can actually use self rising flour as a substitute, just pay attention to your proportions! If you are making your own self rising flour, use a whisk to mix the ingredients as evenly as possible. This is a great trick for when you are on vacation or are trying self rising flour for the first time!
Keep in mind that most store-bought self rising flours will contain a “softer” or lower protein content flour than your typical all purpose flour. This means that your end result, should you use all purpose flour to make your self rising flour, will be slightly less tender, although it will no doubt be just as yummy!
Storing Self Rising Flour
Because of the baking powder, self rising flour has a shorter shelf life than other flours. We recommend making it in smaller batches or purchasing small bags unless you use it quite often. Then, as we always do, label it with the date you made or purchased it so you can tell when to use it by! Most flours will last longer, but try to use your self rising flour within a year of creation, to maximize the effects of the leavening agent. Store your self rising flour in an airtight container and put the container in a cool, dark place. The back of the pantry or your refrigerator even works well. The most important thing is keeping water out of your flour, because water will cause mold and bacteria growth.
What Are Cake Flours?
Cake flours are light, airy flours that have lower protein content and tend to create delicious cakes and lighter pastries. These self rising flours contain a protein content of about 8.5%, which is slightly lower than the 10-12% found in all purpose flour. This means that you will get a tender, flakier end result with these flours, and basically makes them similar to a cake flour, but with the added bonus of the leavening agent. These flours may be too light to use in biscuits, so you should use them exclusively for cake flours and substitute them with cake flour instead of all purpose flour if making your own!
No matter whether you are from the South or not, your Southern-style biscuits will be the talk of the town if you decide to use self rising flour! You can make your own or buy it straight off the shelf. Self rising flour is perfect for pancakes and cornbread too. In fact, bless their little hearts, the Southerners practically could not get by without it! As long as you follow your recipe and pay attention to your flour substitutions, your self rising flour experience will be top-notch. Try out some of these tips and let us know what you think in the comments below!