When baking, it is important to use the right flour. You can substitute flours in some cases, with care, but it is best to use the flour called for in the recipe, especially the first time you make it. All-purpose flour and self-rising flour are both used for baking quick breads, muffins and biscuits. They can be successfully substituted in these recipes. When making pastries, cakes or yeast breads, it is best not to substitute.
All-purpose flour is wheat flour milled from a mixture of hard and soft wheat. It is enriched with iron, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. It may be bleached to whiten it and improve baking properties. All-purpose has less gluten than bread flour, but more than cake flour. The exact percentages vary between brands and there is a difference in the way some brands act in some recipes. Many cooks stick to the same brand to guarantee the same results every time. Without the addition of leavening agents, baked goods made with all-purpose flour will not rise.
Self-rising flour is white wheat flour that is enriched in the same way that all-purpose flour is. In addition, it has added leavening ingredients of baking powder and salt. Self-rising flour produces a risen baked product without the addition of further leavening agents.
When substituting between self-rising flour and all-purpose flour, it is usually a matter of adjusting the leavening agents, adding or subtracting as necessary. Do not substitute self-rising flour in yeast-rising recipes. When substituting self-rising flour for all-purpose flour, decrease the baking powder by 1 ½ tsp. and decrease the salt by ½ tsp. for every cup of self-rising flour used. When substituting all-purpose flour for self-rising flour, decrease the amount of flour by 2 tsp. per cup and add 1 ½ tsp. of baking powder and ½ tsp. of salt per cup of flour in the original recipe.
Substituting in Recipes Using Baking Soda
Baking soda is another leavening agent used in some quick bread recipes. Baking soda requires the addition of an acid ingredient to create the rising reaction. When using self-rising flour in these recipes, eliminate the baking soda and decrease or eliminate the acid ingredient. Common acid ingredients are lemon juice, vinegar and cream of tartar. Whole milk can be substituted for buttermilk when using all-purpose flour.
References and ResourcesClemson Cooperative Extension; Selecting and Storing Cereals and Grains; E. H. Hoyle; November 2006
University of Missouri Extension; Using and Storing All-Purpose Flour; Barbara J. Willenberg, et al.; October 1993
North Dakota State University; Ingredient Substitutions; Julie Garden-Robinson; July 1999