Q. You recently gave the formula for substituting all-purpose flour for self-rising by adding 11/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 cup of flour. After I clipped it out, I found a similar formula you gave a couple of years ago. In the older recipe, you said to add 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Which one is correct?
Hey, no fair – you're checking up on me. Actually, I have to apologize. When you answer a few hundred questions a year, it's hard to remember them all.
I get so many questions about self-rising and all-purpose flour that I wanted to dig a little deeper. So I called an expert, Linda Carman, the baking expert for Martha White who also is a consultant for White Lily. Self-rising flour was the Southern standard for years, because it works so well in things that used to be made daily in many Southern kitchens:
“For biscuits and cornbread, it was like a pre-mix,” Carman says. “It works fairly well for any quick bread, pancakes or waffles, but biscuits and cornbread were the driving force.”
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In fact, Carman recalls that when the Martha White test kitchen was established years ago, a company executive who wanted to promote the company's self-rising flour ordered them to use only that for formulating recipes. “I think that's why people learned to use self-rising for so many things.”
To substitute all-purpose, she says the standard is to use 11/2 teaspoons of baking powder and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a cup of flour. Now, she emphasizes “scant” on the salt. If you're just working with a couple of cups of flour, that will work. But if you need a lot of flour, you wouldn't want to add 5 teaspoons of salt to 10 cups of flour.
There may be a slight difference between brands, she said, but it wouldn't be significant.
In the meantime, I'll repeat one bit of advice that never changes: Cooking is art, but baking is science. When you make changes in a recipe – say, using self-rising flour instead of all-purpose flour – you always take a little risk.