How To

How to make self-raising flour

Here’s what to do when you’ve run out of self-raising flour.
flour and sugar in a bowl to make scones

What is self-raising flour and when do you need it?

Self-raising flour is an all-purpose plain or wholemeal flour with baking powder and salt added. Its purpose is to add lightness and rise to baked goods. Use it in scones, cakes, muffins and in some biscuits and pancakes, generally in recipes that don’t include baking powder or bicarbonate of soda. Self-raising flour may also be used in conjunction with plain flour to tailor the degree of rise in baked goods.

How do I tell if I have self-raising flour?

If you have flour in a canister or even two unlabelled canisters and are unsure of the type, you can use this simple test to work out which is which. Place a teaspoon of each flour into separate small cups and stir in 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. If the mixture bubbles, the flour is self-raising as what you are witnessing is the acid reacting with the leavening ingredients in the flour. On the other hand, if the flour remains unchanged in consistency, it is plain flour. Now you’ve determined the type, immediately label the canisters!

What happens if you don’t use self-raising flour?

The consequence of not using self-raising flour when it is called for in a recipe will depend on the the make up of the remaining ingredients. In some recipes the result may be subtle and acceptable, perhaps a little less airy than intended. This will be due to the quantity of self-raising flour included in the recipe in the first place or the role it plays in combination with other ingredients, which may also assist with rise. Then there are other recipes where using plain flour will have an obvious result, the expected airy cake will be dense, or it may rise only to collapse dramatically.

The effects of not using the correct flour can also impact the texture of pikelets, scones and pancakes creating a dense result. You can, however, use self-raising flour to make a white sauce or crème pâtissière without altering the outcome of the recipe and the other flavours will mask the taste.  

How to turn plain flour into self-raising flour

To make your own plain flour or plain wholemeal flour, measure 1 cup flour and 2 teaspoons baking powder (see Baking Powder below) and sift together. To measure ingredients accurately, fill the cup or spoon, then gently shake (not press) it so the ingredient sits just level to the top of the measuring cup or spoon, then level with a knife or spatula, removing the excess.

How to turn gluten-free flour into gluten-free self-raising flour

Converting gluten-free flour into a self-raising version can be trickier as there is no universal recipe for gluten-free flour. Each manufacturer creates a unique blend of flours, with a mix of types such as: potato starch, cornflour, buckwheat flour, chickpea flour, sorghum flour.

To convert any gluten-free plain flour, first check that the blend includes xanthan gum. If it does, sift together 1 cup gluten-free plain flour with 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder. If your gluten-free plain flour does not list xanthan or guar gum as ingredients, both ingredients that assist with creating structure in the absence of gluten, you will need to add ¼ teaspoon xanthan or guar gum, along with the 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder to each 1 cup plain flour.

Baking powder

Baking powder is a raising agent consisting mainly of two parts cream of tartar to one part bicarbonate of soda. The acid and alkaline combination of the two ingredients, when moistened and heated, gives off carbon dioxide which aerates and lightens a mixture during baking. Unless you bake frequently, it is easy to forget how long it’s been sitting in your pantry. It’s always wise to check the use by date, which is usually printed on the base of the container.

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