We've been keeping an eye out for good products to recommend for folks wanting to tackle baking this year. The idea of self-rising flour seemed promising at first, but it didn't end up being quite what we thought...
As it turns out, flour being marketed as "self-rising" (or "self-raising," as it is called in the UK) is simply regular flour with baking powder added. The ratio of ingredients is usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour. Many brands also add a pinch of salt for each cup of flour.
So the "rise" in this case doesn't actually refer to the traditional rising and proofing of yeast doughs. It refers to the rising that happens in the oven as the baking powder becomes activated by the liquids in the batter and the heat of the oven.
Self-rising flour is sometimes used in recipes for quick breads, biscuits, and other baked goods that use chemical leaveners to rise, but it's best to only use this flour when the recipe specifically calls for it. Otherwise, it's all too easy to throw off the proportion of baking powder and salt in the recipe and end up with an under- or over-leavened baked good with off flavors.
In general, we'd say that it's not worth buying self-rising flour, even if you're completely new to baking and are hoping to buy yourself a bit of insurance. And if you're attempting anything with yeast, definitely stick to the plain old flours. Self-rising flour would really throw off your results!
Related: Weekend Cooking: Bake Bread!
(Image: Flickr member kt.ries licensed under Creative Commons)