Know the difference between all-purpose and self-rising white flour

Self-rising and all-purpose white flour serve different baking purposes. Don’t use self-rising flour in place of all-purpose flour or results may be disappointing.

Enter the baking aisle in a local grocery store and you will likely see several different types of white flour. Each five pound package of all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, cake flour, and pastry flour contains about 17 ½ cups of white flour but each type of flour has a specific percentage of protein and gluten to create delicious baked goods. When a recipe doesn’t specify which type of flour, a consumer may be baffled which one to buy. Let’s take a look at two popular white flour products—all-purpose and self-rising flour—to see how they are made and when to use each one.

All white flour is made from wheat, however, it is not made from the entire grain of wheat. The grain or kernel of wheat, which is the seed from which a grain plant grows, contains three distinct parts. The outer covering which is high in insoluble fiber is called the bran. The middle layer of the kernel, called the endosperm, contains proteins and carbohydrates. The germ is the inner most portion of the kernel and is a rich source of unsaturated fat, B vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

During the milling process, the bran and germ are removed to make white flour which contains only the endosperm. Removing the bran significantly reduces the fiber content of the flour. Look at the food nutrition labels on products made with white flour and you will see that they are low in fiber. Removing the germ increases the shelf life of white flour enabling it to be stored in an airtight container for six to eight months. Removing the wheat germ also reduces the healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Grinding the starchy endosperm results in a flour that is versatile and can be made into varieties such as all-purpose and self-rising flour.

All-purpose flour is suitable for most purposes such as baking, cooking, coating meats, vegetables and as a thickening agent for sauces and gravies. A mixture of hard wheat which contains more gluten and soft wheat are ground together to make all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is versatile as it contains an average amount of protein. The more protein in the wheat the more gluten is formed. Gluten provides the elasticity to the dough, helping it to stretch and trap the gases formed by leavening agents like yeast and baking powder. The dough will naturally rise resulting in baked goods that look and taste delicious.

Self-rising flour should only be used when a recipe calls for self-rising flour because salt and baking powder (which is a leavening agent) have been added and distributed evenly through the flour. Be sure to measure self-rising flour accurately. It is not recommended to substitute self-rising flour for other types of flour since a leavening agent has been added. If you do not have self-rising flour and the recipe calls for it, you can make your own by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Remember do not add additional baking powder to the recipe if you use self-rising flour. Some recipes for biscuits, muffins, cakes, cookies and scones may call for self-rising flour.

Understanding the difference between all-purpose and self-rising flour should provide you with the confidence to choose the correct flour for your baking needs.