L.A. Times Test Kitchen tip: Storing flour
-- Basic flours (including all-purpose, cake, pastry and bread flours): These are generally more stable for storage than whole grain or alternative flours. Before grinding, the grains are stripped of the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm to be processed. The stripping (and optional "bleaching," or oxidizing) gives the flour its white or creamy color. Store these flours in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container, labeled with the purchase date. Keep them at cool room temperature (no higher than 75 degrees); the flour should keep for up to a few months. You can also freeze the flour; simply bring it back to room temperature before using.
-- Whole grain and alternative flours (including whole wheat, barley, oat and rye): These contain more of the grain, starch or nut, increasing the flavor, color and texture of the flour. The fat content also is higher because of the oil in the grain, which makes the flour less stable and prone to rancidity. Because these flours can go rancid quickly, check to see whether the packaging has a processing date before buying; many producers now date their flours for freshness. Store these flours in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container in the freezer; do not store at room temperature. Bring the flour to room temperature before using.
To check to see whether a flour has gone rancid, smell it. Rancid flour will have an "off" smell.
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-- Noelle Carter
Photo: Gary Evolo of Cargill Flour Mill in Los Angeles checks the stock in the roller mills part of the plant. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times