How Self-Rising Flour Became A Southern Pantry Staple

Thank you, modern innovation, for access to all different kinds of flour. Bread flour, cake flour, rice flour, almond flour, and the list goes on and on. But if you love making baked goods, odds are you are a fan of self-rising flour. For those of you who may not have heard of this wonderful invention, self-rising flour is much like all-purpose white flour. In fact, it is made using all-purpose white flour. But wait ... there's a twist. 

Bakerpedia explains that mixed in with all-purpose is baking powder and salt. You might be wondering how the addition of these ingredients makes that much of a difference in your baking, but self-rising flour is actually extremely popular and used in store-bought dry mixes for things like waffles, muffins, and pancakes. In the United Kingdom, self-rising flour is low in protein and only contains baking powder. However, in the United States, both baking powder and salt are used. In fact, self-rising flour is used as the base for many Southern-style recipes, making it an essential product in Southern households. But how did this come to be?

The rise of White Lily

Self-rising flour has its leavening agent already thoroughly combined throughout the product, so those using it don't have to spend extra time adding it or worrying about forgetting to mix it in. In addition, according to Bob's Red Mill, the baking powder helps the dough to rise without yeast. However, it is because of this addition to the flour that self-rising flour only has a six-month shelf-life before the bag expires. Despite this, self-rising flour is considered crucial to Southern cooking and is widely popular to use for Southern fat-bread, muffins, hoe cakes, and fluffy Southern-style biscuits.

The Kitchn explains that an Englishman named Henry Jones invented the well-beloved self-rising flour in the nineteenth century and patented it in the United States soon after. Dry premade baking mixes like Jiffy and boxed cake mix rose to popularity, replacing the need for leavening yeast and becoming a hallmark Southern staple. A major Tennessee brand of self-rising flour called White Lily launched in 1883 and was, and still is, one of the only brands to use 100% soft-wheat flour which produces less gluten. This means that products made with White Lily were naturally flakier, making it perfect for Southern biscuits and pie crusts (via Taste of the South Magazine).