Our new King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour: testing, testing...

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Do we have the best job in the world here at King Arthur Flour, or what?

One of our recent group projects was to bake and taste biscuits made with our new King Arthur Enriched Unbleached Self-Rising Flour.

Taste biscuits, huh? It’s a tough job… or, in this case, a delightfully tender job!

Our goal wasn’t just to enjoy hot biscuits with melting butter. We were tasked with choosing the very best biscuit recipe to print on the back of the flour bag; and we needed to make sure everyone, from biscuit novice to seasoned Southern biscuit baker, could successfully make it.

Serious business, yeah… but it was still a lot of fun.

First, what’s up with this new flour? What IS self-rising flour, anyway?

Self-rising flour is very familiar down South, where it’s used for biscuits, light cakes, and other traditional Southern favorites. Milled from a softer wheat than all-purpose flour, it’s lower in protein, meaning it produces softer, more tender baked goods.

But self-rising flour’s main point of distinction is in its name: self-rising. This convenient flour eliminates two steps in many of your favorite recipes: adding the baking powder, and adding the salt. Both are already in the flour.

How do you use self-rising flour? Well, first of all, check out our array of self-rising flour recipes, simply by searching on “self-rising flour” on our King Arthur Flour recipe site. Many older cookbooks call for self-rising flour, as well; so you’ve probably already got some self-rising flour recipes in your “favorites” file.

To try self-rising flour in recipes that don’t call for it, look for baked goods that use baking powder. Any recipe calling for at least 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour is a good choice.

Pancakes, biscuits, scones, cake, muffins – are all good candidates for our new flour. Since it’s lower protein and its absorption will be a bit less, you’ll want to cut back any liquid just a touch, to achieve the desired dough or batter consistency.

And, don’t forget to omit the baking powder and salt from the recipe you’re following – it’s already in your self-rising flour.

Truthfully, I was a bit of a skeptic about our new self-rising flour – until I tried it.

I’ve substituted self-rising flour in my favorite scone recipes. And in cakes. And pancakes and waffles, and muffins. The flour’s lower protein really shines in baked goods designed to be tender, rather than chewy/hearty. And, with the baking powder and salt already in the flour, there’s no chance of me forgetting to add them – something that happens all too frequently the older I get.

Plus, call me lazy, but it’s just SO easy to make biscuits and dumplings with just two ingredients: self-rising flour, and enough heavy cream to make a soft dough. Mix; scoop; bake. Ahhh…

But I digress. Let’s take a look at how we decided on a recipe for the back of our self-rising flour bag.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

With seven of us all making biscuits at once, using seven different recipes, and with seven levels of baking experience – ranging from CIA grad to “I’m not a baker” – there were quite a range of techniques on display.

From pastry blender, to fingers, to mixer (to pastry fork, to food processor), we explored all the different ways to work butter into flour.

Once the dough was mixed, it was time to shape – gently, please – and cut biscuits.

I’m a fan of square biscuits, myself; no need to re-roll any scraps, as round biscuits require.

One thing I should have done, though – trim the edges of the square before cutting the biscuits. For best rise, biscuit edges should all be freshly cut (not patted, as the edges of my square biscuits were).

I paid the price – in delicious, but slightly misshapen biscuits. See how nicely the biscuit in the back rose – with its cut edge – compared to the biscuit in the foreground, with its uncut edge?

Despite some shaping mishaps, we all arrived at the finish line with hot biscuits to taste.

Our testing/tasting group, pictured above, included Mark Tecca, King Arthur’s director of new business development; Julie Christopher, family flour outreach coordinator; Susan Miller, director of our Baking Education Center; Frank Tegethoff, a longtime baker familiar to many of you via our bakers’ hotline; and Sue Gray, and Susan Reid, culinary school grads and seasoned bakers who wear a variety of hats (toques?) around the test kitchen.

All the recipes turned out very well indeed; but a couple stood out. In the end, the following recipe for Easy Self-Rising Biscuits ended up on the back of the bag.

Let’s make biscuits, shall we?

First, preheat the oven to 425°.

Next, measure 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour into a bowl. Here Sue Gray, a 15-year test kitchen veteran, measures flour into a cup via the “sprinkle and sweep” method – which is the way we measure flour when developing our King Arthur recipes.

One cup of our self-rising flour weighs 4 ounces; if you have a scale, measuring ingredients by weight is both easier, and more accurate

Next, 4 tablespoons of ice-cold butter. We like to cut it into small pieces before adding it to the flour.

Here, Sue uses a rolling pin to flatten the butter on a well-floured surface, then uses her bench knife to cut it into thin shards.

Next, Sue works the butter into the flour until it’s in smaller pieces.

A pastry blender (or your fingers) will make quick work of this. It’s OK – in fact, preferable – to leave some of the butter in larger pieces; this will help the biscuits’ texture.

Add 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold milk or buttermilk.

Stir until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if needed.

Stir gently but thoroughly, making sure all the dry flour in the bottom of the bowl is incorporated.

Scoop the dough onto a well-floured surface, and fold it over on itself several times, using more flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll or pat the dough into a 5″ x 8 1/2″ rectangle about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick.

Again, keep your work surface well floured; pick the dough up with your bench knife and sprinkle flour underneath, as necessary.

Cut biscuits with a sharp, round 2″ biscuit cutter, dipping the cutter into flour between cuts to reduce sticking. Or cut the rectangle into 12 small rectangular biscuits, which will allow you to skip the step of re-rolling and cutting scraps.

If you’ve used a round cutter, pat the scraps together, and cut additional biscuits.

Place the biscuits on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1″ between them for crisp biscuits. Arrange biscuits so they’re barely touching for soft-side biscuits.

More testing: Sue was seeing if using parchment would change the biscuits’ texture or browning; it didn’t.

For higher-rising soft-side biscuits, place biscuits in an 8″ round pan.

Brush with butter before baking, for a golden, flavorful crust.

Bake the biscuits for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and serve hot. Or warm.

If you have any leftovers, cool them completely, wrap airtight, and store at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

To refresh room-temperature biscuits, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 to 13 minutes, until heated through.

Some people like cold biscuits; but to our mind, reheating returns them fairly effortlessly to just-baked (rather than leftover) status.

So, here are the results of a few of our Sue’s experiments along the way:

On the left, a biscuit baked in a cake pan; on the right, on a baking sheet. The biscuits in the pan, since they were crowded together, rose higher (they had to go up, not out); and had soft sides.

Does your oven make a difference? Absolutely. Same recipe, baking time/temperature, same shelf height – two different ovens, two different results.

Can you add whole wheat flour to this basic recipe?

Yes, absolutely. Our biscuits made with 25% whole wheat flour (1/2 cup whole wheat substituted for 1/2 cup self-rising) rose higher than those made with all self-rising flour. Since whole wheat flour increases the protein and thus the dough’s absorption level, the dough was drier; it held its shape more easily in the oven, rising up, not out.

The tradeoff? The 100% self-rising flour biscuits were definitely more tender.

And finally, at the end of the day (or even better, the beginning of the day) – warm, soft/crusty biscuits with a dollop of thick, golden honey.

Who says we New Englanders don’t know how to bake (and enjoy) great biscuits? Now that we’ve finally got the perfect flour – it’s easy!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Easy Self-Rising Biscuits.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. sandra Alicante

    A note for any of you who read British cook books or use British recipes. These are pretty much the same as scones, only scones have a little sugar in them and are generally used as a sweet cake.

    Many cake recipes of ours use Self Raising (SR) flour, so I guess this would be great in those. However, I ‘m not sure if our flours have salt added, so if using it in our recipes, be careful if salt is one of the ingredients, you don’t want to over do it!

    sandrascookbook.com

    Thanks, Sandra – great advice from someone actually baking on a regular basis with European flours. PJH

    Reply
  2. halleys

    I made these last night with buttermilk and they were DELICIOUS. So simple to make – definitely going to be one of my regular go-to recipes.

    Me too! Love how easy they are, and you just can’t beat hot biscuits… and at this time of year, adding fresh berries and cream makes ‘em even better. PJH

    Reply
  3. martibeth

    I can’t wait to try KAF’s new self-rising flour. I never knew that self-rising flour was lower protein. I used White Lily self-rising flour for years to make biscuits until I discovered King Arthur Flour and the incredible biscuits made with Bakewell Cream. It will be interesting to see how these new biscuits compare with Bakewell Cream’s. I just made some last night actually to accompany chicken fricassee. Of course, I use buttermilk. Something about buttermilk that takes biscuits to a higher level. I also have stopped using Crisco shortening to make biscuits, and only use butter now. Also, I preheat the oven to 425, but as soon as the biscuits go in the oven, I increase the temp to 450 – a tip given to me by my sister in-law who is definitely Southern (Shenandoah Valley in the great state of Virginia). Thanks to KAF for always coming up with new types of flour.

    Marti, I agree about the buttermilk. Do you know, if you go through a lot of buttermilk, that you can make a great substitute by mixing 1/4 cup buttermilk with 2 cups regular milk, and letting it sit at cool room temperature for about 36 hours? And I’d never heard of RAISING the oven temperature once you put the biscuits in – I definitely have to try that. Thanks for connecting here, as always. PJH

    Reply
  4. AnneInWA

    PJ-

    I am SO EXCITED to try this flour and this biscuit recipe! Is this flour supposed to be an equivalent to the famous good old southern flour While Lily? My southern relatives swear by it for biscuits, but it is hard to find, plus I am a loyal KAF flour user (I just cannot bring myself to use anything but!).

    Thanks PJ for this, I will be looking forward to receiving my newest flour addition in the mail!

    Anne

    If you are looking for biscuits that are soft and cake like with an even crumb – the new KAF Self Rising Flour may get you closer to that result – it’s closer to pastry flour in terms of gluten or protein numbers than to all purpose flour. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  5. Leanne

    Woo hoo! Was excited to see the announcement hit my inbox! I’ve always had self-rising flour to hand — and used some last night in making mustard-and-thyme dumplings for the chicken tarragon stew I was making. So deliciously yummy.

    I’ll surely be getting some with my next order.

    (and I confirm the scones thing — although I don’t think there is as much butter in scones as there are in biscuits. Scones are a touch more solid although they flake apart just lovely.)

    Reply
  6. JOSH1

    When will the self-rising flour be available in stores that sell KA products? Excited and can’t wait to try it!

    Right now it is on the shelves of HEB, and Dierberg’s. The quickest way to get this onto your local grocery shelf is to have a chat with your local Grocery Department Manager. I’m sure they will do their best for you. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  7. vermontgirl

    Awesome! I just made a quick run to the store to pick up a bag- can’t wait to try these biscuits tonight. Also- I love all the progress at the new store and cafe. I saw people seated at outside tables, enjoying their lunch.

    Thanks for your reassurance about the big changes at our store and cafe. Enjoy the new Self Rising Flour – Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  8. takefive34

    Hi, PJ!!

    Looks like I’ll be adding another item to my KAF shopping list!! We’ll be making our annual pilgrimage some time in August. I HAVE noticed, though, that the cake flour has been available for some time at our Publix stores in the St. Pete area; it just might be that they’ll be carrying this self-rising flour too at some point….but right now, it’s another reason to visit KAF!!!!

    Reason #523 to visit KAF – buy self-rising flour! Hopefully Publix will be carrying our SR flour soon; it’s up to them, whether they want to stock it. Have a great visit in August – bet it’ll be nice to leave Florida’s heat, and enjoy the Green Mountain State… PJH

    Reply
  9. mumpy

    i noticed in the pictures – and i’ve seen it in other blogs – that one of the bakers is using a stand mixer to cut in butter….with the paddle-type beater….my KA mixer instructions (written in 1975) said to use the whisk attachment for this job, and i’ve always done it that way….i slice the butter into small-ish pieces before adding to the flour…i think the whisk does a wonderful job of cutting in the butter, but now i’m wondering…..do you think it makes any difference which attachment is used?

    Mumpy, I doubt it makes any difference at all; each to his own, eh? If you have a method you like, stick with it… PJH

    Reply
  10. meedee

    I want to try the self rising flour, we like the soft sides, with milk gravy with onions. My first time to use self rising flour. Thank you for another great product !

    Hope you enjoy it – I was skeptical (“Why do I need another flour?!”), but I’m loving it! PJH

    Reply
  11. Ginger

    Can’t wait to try the new flour. Quick question. Is this different than the SR flour you sold a few years ago?

    Yes, Ginger, it’s lower protein, so it’ll make softer, more tender baked goods. It’s closer to a Southern flour than the SR we used to sell. PJH

    Reply
  12. Ann

    I am so excited to try this! I have really missed the Self Rising Flour you used to sell years ago. I use it primarily for beer bread and beer muffin rolls, but I will definitely be trying these biscuits!

    Ann, be sure to check out all of our self-rising flour recipes – so easy, so good! PJH

    Reply
  13. peaceland

    Exciting, I’ll start my search for some KAF-SR today! I want to have those biscuits ready when I get my first “real” tomato from the garden! Oh- and those cooked June apples need a biscuit and ham to go with them, too!
    Now I am HUNGRY! Thanks, as always for everything you folks do for the baking world!

    Reply
  14. "Cori T."

    Yay! My Aunt (a recent KAF convert) and I were just talking about SR flour and how she couldn’t find it anywhere. And then I got that wonderful email and called her immediately. I do believe I know how she’ll be using her gift card!

    A question on the recipe, now. I’ve seen other recipes say to handle as little as possible to prevent a tough biscuit, but it looks like that isn’t a concern with this recipe. Is it because of the lower protein in the flour?

    Cori, you should still handle the dough sparingly, but folding it over helps create the “flaky,” layered texture so many biscuit lovers long for. So, we think it’s worth that slight extra bit of handling. And yeah, the lower protein does make the dough more forgiving… PJH

    Reply
  15. BluebonnetBaker

    I’ve been testing the SRF for a bit now, and I am totally smitten. I completely forgot it was lower protein though, which resulted in something I’d like to call “scuffins” – somewhere between a scone and a muffin, but wonderfully tender and full of banana walnut goodness. I’ll be posting them later today. By the way, that photo of a smiling Susan Miller totally made me grin too. I miss you guys! After just two days, it’s like we were family, and it’s been way too long since I’ve seen any of you. Great post, PJ. Lovin’ the comparison photos.

    It’s true, you do need to make a slight adjustment in liquid when substituting SR in a recipe using all-purpose flour; but it gets to be second nature pretty quickly. Thhink I’ll try some scones with it this morning… Thanks for connecting, and thanks for coming up to VT for Blog & Bake! PJH

    Reply
  16. sleeloo

    This is very exciting. The new SR flour sounds awesome! Just wondering, some of your recipes call for freezing the biscuit/scone dough for a half hour before baking. Do you think these would benefit from that treatment as well?

    You can certainly do that, but if the recipe is not calling for that step you can safely skip it.

    Reply
  17. blessedwhitney

    I hope y’all tested with temperature, also. Just like pie dough, biscuit dough gets a lot of help with using cold ingredients and tools. I keep some butter in the fridge, always, just in case. When you think you might make some, put the tools in the freezer also. You know, the thing that cuts the dough or the bowl and blade for the food processor, and the rolling pin. You’ve made room, clearly, because you’ve taken out those lunchbag cooling ice packs and laid them on the counter top, to get that cold, too. If you get it this ridiculously cold to start with, then you have more time to mess up before the butter starts truly combining. Anyway, that’s how we do it down here (in Georgia). :)

    Reply
    1. wendyb964

      Wow! I love this comment as well as the others. Though I can bake cakes, quick breads, and even a few yeast ones, I’ve always made “hockey pucks” as far as biscuits, and we will not even talk about tough pie crusts. Knew cold was important though taking this extra time to chill items may give me a helping hand. It’s partly lack of confidence and the fact that my mum never made crust or biscuits. Will try for scones as well.

  18. jimandmelanieshelton

    I’m using reading Bakewise right now. Shirley O. Corriher recommends bleached flour–all-purpose, self-rising, and cake. She says that bleached flours often have lower protein levels because of how they’re intended to be used. You guys have the only unbleached cake flour and self-rising flour that I’ve seen. How do your protein levels compare with a Swansdown or White Lily?
    Also, how does the bleaching affect the chemistry of the flour? Does it change the pH or the protein or starch availability?

    The protein level of our self-rising flour is comparable to White Lily’s. We didn’t compare to Swansdown, since that’s cake flour; but rest assured all three are “soft” flours and, unlike higher-protein flours, slight differences in protein level don’t affect performance as they would, say, with flours in the 11%-12% range. – PJH

    Different bleaching methods are used, depending upon the type of flour. Cake flours are bleached in one way to change color and the absorption rate of the starch; all-purpose flours in a different way to change the color. Bleaching may affect pH, but not enough to change performance in chemically leavened recipes. Bleaching has no effect upon the protein level of the flour. Hope this helps. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  19. Donna Jo

    I just got some of your self-rising flour and, despite the 95+ degree heat, had to try out the biscuits.
    I have never used self-rising flour before, so the results were a revelation! I always thought I made pretty good biscuits, but these were a whole ‘nother class.
    And the strawberry jam made with peach balsamic vinegar was terrific on them. Wish I’d made that myself too.

    Anyway, looove the results with the flour.

    Thanks so much, Donna Jo – a “whole “nother class” of biscuits is high praise indeed. Hope it cools off soon so you can do some more experimenting with our self-rising flour! PJH

    Reply
  20. Donna

    I used the me unbleached KA flour for my biscuit recipe this morning! They did not turn out the same as when I use my other brand of self rising flour (I think it’s bleached). I did everything as the recipe calls for, but they turned out a little tough and not as good as usual!

    Our flours work best when you stir to fluff, sprinkle into the measuring cup and then level. If your biscuits turned about a little tough or dry, there might simply be too much flour in the recipe. Follow this measuring method the next time. We find you get a better baked product, more consistent results and about 18 – 20 cups of flour per 5 pound bag (which for some of our home bakers means more baking!). If this is not the culprit, feel free to call our baker’s hotline (802-649-3717) or read through the blog for this recipe. It’s like baking with your best baking friend at your side. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  21. Sharon

    My grandchildren have dairy allergies but love biscuits etc. Could I use soy milk and vegetable margerine instead of milk & butter to make these or would it make them tough? I have had good luck substituting soy in some baking recipes.

    Your substitutions should work fine! Just make sure to not to overwork your dough, otherwise it will become tough.-Jon

    Reply
  22. Rebecca King

    Sharon, I have a recipe that uses canola oil and almond (or whatever) milk rather than butter or shortening, they’re just as good, PLMK if you want it.

    While I use King Arthur flour for everything else, I was apprehensive about the new Self Rising flour. I’d used another brand for decades. I should not have worried, it performed as well or better. I love it, I’m sold! I tested in biscuits, pancakes and red velvet cake, all were huge successes.

    Great to hear that! Our self-rising flour is the first I have tried (we don’t have too many brands of it in New England), but it is now my go-to for pancakes and drop biscuits. Yum!-Jon

    Reply
  23. Gambles

    Great blog!!! Very inspiring! I was depressed so I wanted something quick and warm to butter so – biscuits… A while back I read the blog about self rising flour w/ simply even amounts of flour and cream. (and any other add in you can think of, basically) I merrily ordered the flour, but I had yet to try it so today I started looking for biscuit variations.

    I ended up using your hexagon cutter to make 4 plain and 6 Herb and Garlic Artisan Flavor (Cheddar, Herb, and Garlic recipe). I baked 7 in an 8″ roiund pan w/ melted butter in the bottom (inspired from the Self Rising Garlic Stick recipe) and the rest on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

    I also chilled the formed biscuits before baking for 30 mins. for physical reasons. Would that make a big difference? Next time I’ll chill 1/2!

    I ended up with the BEST plain biscuits I have ever had anywhere! I wish I had done more plain in the butter!! The bottom is crispy with an amazing flavor. The top is just so soft and flaky. They are amazing.

    Unfortunately I’m not a fan of the herb flavoring so I’m done with that. I made bread crumbs w/ the yeast rolls I had used it in a few months ago, but I was hoping if I used it very lightly, I would like it more. It didn’t work. I couldn’t taste the cheddar (Cabot) or the Vermont cheese powder (which is one of my favorite KAF products) so I’m done with the herb flavoring. It is just “grassy” to me. But.. Those plain biscuits…… YUM!

    Thank you so very much for the inspiration, the products, and the recipes. My family laughs at all the KAF deliveries. I’m no longer depressed and the easiest of the biscuits was the best. What could be better than that? You all rock!

    Suzanne

    btw: What would happen if I used Self Rising Flour in a recipe that does NOT have baking powder in it? You have some recipes that use both yeast and baking powder so it should be fine???? I have that in the back of my head to try eventually, but if you know it will be a flop, I’d rather skip it. :)

    If the original recipe did not call for baking powder, then I would skip the Self-Rising flour. It would be hard to say exactly what it will do!-Jon

    Reply
  24. wendyb964

    Rummaging through my pantry I discovered an air-tight container labeled self-rising flour. Lord knows how long it’s been there (last winter’s beer bread at the shortest time.) Does this have a more limited shelf life than AP flour? I wondered if the baking powder would still be active. Thanks for letting me post this trivial comment.

    Reply
  25. Melissa

    The recipe turned out great! I followed what was on the bag rather than looking it up online (of course they are the same). I do have a request though, please put the weight measurements on the bag in addition to volume. I have discovered that baking by weight is so easy and I missed that for this recipe. Again, I know it’s online but I didn’t want to fire up my laptop that early in the morning! Love your products!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Good suggestion, Melissa, thanks – I’ll forward it along to the folks who determine what goes on the bags. Glad you enjoyed the biscuits! PJH

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Doris,

      Yes, you could add some buttermilk powder to the dry ingredients to perk up the flavor. Try a couple of tablespoons to start and adjust to your preference from there. ~ MJ

  26. Diane Walsh

    Can I make the biscuits earlier in the day cover them in plastic wrap & refrigerate them & bake them later in the day

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Absolutely. Even better, if you have room, put them in the freezer; they’ll be extra tender/flaky if they go into the oven frozen. Just add a minute or so more to the baking time. Good luck – PJH

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