Everyone wants to bake fresh, right? You use fresh strawberries, chocolate and milk. How about flour?
Many people have asked me, can flour can go bad? My answer to that is, as long as you have been a good parent, nurtured your flour, and not played favorites – perhaps spent as much quality time as you do with the baking soda- you should be fine.
Does Flour Go Bad?
Just kidding. The real answer? Yes, flour can go bad. And it has a shorter shelf life than you think. This is tricky for most people, as it is not like, say, milk. You cannot tell if your flour has gone bad by looking at it or smelling it. If you keep your flour in a large plastic container or ceramic jar, as many people do, the printed expiration date was thrown out months ago with the paper bag.
Freshness versus Far Gone
Before we get too far, let us take a moment to discuss shelf life versus freshness. The shelf life of flour equates to the expiration date. After expiration the flour is unsafe to use.
Freshness, however, plays into the quality of the finished product. Have you ever baked a batch of brownies or maybe a cake and wondered why it did not turn out as good as the first time you made it? The consistency is the same, the ingredients were all the same, but there is something not quite… “Man, this is good!”… about it? That is freshness. Although a bag of flour expires roughly one year from purchase, it loses freshness within six months depending on how it is stored.
Bake Fresh. Know Your Flours.
Typically, all-purpose flour, self-rising, and bread flour have a shelf life of 6-8 months at room temperature and one year if stored in the fridge. Again, this is the maximum recommended time to keep flour around, but the quality of your baked goods will suffer if the flour is kept for 6 months or more. If you want to bake fresh, you either need Good Measures or use up the bag more frequently.
For wheat flour, oat flour, gluten-free AP flour, and all whole grain flour the shelf life is only 3-6 months at room temperature and one year if stored in the fridge or freezer.
For Paleo bakers who use alternative flours, such as coconut flour or almond flour, the shelf life is considerably less due to the high fat content in the flour. You should plan on using high fat flours within one to two baking sessions.
Proper Way to Store Flour
Flour last longer if it is not exposed to circulating air. While paper packaging is convenient, flour stored within the original bag is truly risking a “fresh life” of less than six months.
Using an airtight container or sealable freezer bag is preferable to paper bags. Many people forget, however, to mark the expiration date. And if you are one of those only-at-Christmas kind of bakers, you could be playing a risky game.
The long and short of it is, unless you regularly use up an entire bag of flour within a 6-month time frame, you are best off with a box of Good Measures individually sealed 1-cup pouches of flour.
- Using a quality product like a Good Measure flour that is pre-weighed and sealed is always a plus. Not only for freshness but safety as well.
- If your flour has been sitting around in a container for who knows how long, be safe and smell it. If it is bad it will have a faintly sour smell that is reminiscent of play dough.
- The fresher the flour the easier it is to bake fresh!