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Self-rising Flour Vs. All-purpose Flour: Know the Difference

Self-rising Flour Vs. All-purpose Flour
Scores of novice cooks are plagued by questions related to the difference between all-purpose flour and self-rising flour. This article dwells on self-rising flour vs all-purpose flour.
Priya Johnson
Last Updated: Apr 18, 2018
Ever been to the supermarket to pick up flour and been befuddled by the types available? Well, flour is available in several types, right from all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, cake flour, pastry flour to bread flour, etc. Each flour type has its own set of protein properties and leavening agents and are all special for culinary purposes in their own way. Oft we set off to bake and find two synonymous terms: all-purpose flour and self-rising flour. Is there a difference between the two, or are they one and the same thing?

Both all-purpose and self-rising flour are processed wheat flour (endosperm part of wheat) and are used for baking purposes. They are not one and the same thing and ignorance of the difference can conduce to baking disasters. The difference lies in the two additional components added to self-rising flour: baking powder (1 tsp) and salt (¼ tsp). However, this small quantity plays a major role in differentiating these two kinds of flour.
Substituting Self-Rising Flour with All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup All-purpose Flour  + 1 tsp Baking Powder  + ¼ tsp Salt  = 1 Cup Self-rising Flour
All purpose Flour
If your recipe calls for self-rising flour and you only have all-purpose flour at home, you can substitute self-rising flour with all-purpose flour, providing you make some adjustments.
measuring spoon
you need to add one tsp baking powder and ¼ tsp salt to one cup of all-purpose flour to get one cup of self-rising flour.
Always use measuring spoons to measure the flour, baking powder and salt. You don't want to make mistakes with the measurements. After you fill the spoon, with the necessary ingredient, run a spatula or knife over it, thereby removing the excess powder off. This will help to measure with accuracy. The risky part about cooking with self-rising flour is that even slight extra amounts can interfere with the recipe. For example, tiny screw ups such as dusting the pastry board with this flour can prove expensive. Since self-rising flour already has the leavening agent, dusting the board with it, will only add to the added self-rising flour, thereby screwing up the proportions. The end product will not be as you want it. So be careful with the substitutions or else buy self-rising flour from the grocery store.
Self rising Flour
To be on the safer side, while preparing your self-rising flour, discard a teaspoon of all-purpose flour from the cup of all-purpose flour. This means you are reducing the amount of all-purpose flour by one teaspoon. Now add the baking powder and salt. This will help get a better balanced self-rising flour for your recipe.
Substituting All-Purpose Flour with Self-Rising Flour
On the other hand, if the recipe calls for all-purpose flour and you only have self-rising flour at home, that's when the complications arise. Self-rising flour is flour that already includes a leavening agent; baking powder and salt added to it before packaging. These ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour, which give a nice lift to the baked goods every time one uses it. This is why recipes that call for self-rising flour do not call for addition of salt or leavening agents.
So if you want to substitute all-purpose flour with self-rising flour, the simple logic would be to not add any salt and baking powder as mentioned in the recipe, because self-rising flour already contains these two ingredients. However, it is important to remember that the baking powder and salt content in one cup of self-rising flour varies from one brand to another, which is why precise substitution becomes difficult.
Trial and error method is the only way to narrow down on the exact amount of salt and baking powder. This means several batches of flop cakes or cookies! For example, if you are baking a cake, the substitution you made may result in an unappealing cake. The cake may rise or fall beyond expectation, due to the unknown baking powder content. Moreover, due to the lack of precise salt content knowledge, the cake may taste too bland or too salty. Learning from your mistakes and improving on the next try is the only way to achieve perfectly baked cakes with substitution. However, on an average, not more than 1½ tsp of baking powder and not over ½ tsp of salt will be added to one cup of self-rising flour. So adjust accordingly.
The simplest way would be to purchase both self-rising and all-purpose flour and use them as they are, as and when asked in the recipe.
While baking, we need to understand that flour comprises carbohydrates and proteins. Higher level of protein content is associated with harder, stronger flour suited for preparing chewy and crusty breads. Less percentage of protein indicates soft flour suitable for preparing tender, chemically leavened baked products like cakes, cookies, pie crusts, etc. Flour used in baking is white flour or the ground endosperm (starchy center of the grain) of wheat kernels. The bran and germ are absent in white flour.
All-purpose flour contains an average protein content and is versatile enough to prepare everything from breads to cakes. This is why this type is also known as the multitasker of the flour world or jack of all trades. It comes in both bleached and unbleached variety. Bleached flour is flour which has been chlorinated, so as to mature and whiten the flour. Cakes baked with all-purpose flour are slightly tougher than those made with cake flour. However, this difference does not bother the casual baker. On the other hand, self-rising flour is great for preparing scones, biscuits, muffins, etc. The only catch about using self-rising flour is that one has to accurately measure it while adding it into the recipe.
Sifting Flour
Measuring Cup
Three types of flour with three wooden spoons
Handful of flour
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