Rice flour is finely milled rice. This flour is mainly used in Asian cuisine to make noodles, desserts, and sweets. As a thickener, it can also be found as an ingredient in gravies, custards, and sauces. Those who are gluten-intolerant can turn to rice flour as a substitute to wheat flour.
Rice flour may be made from either white rice or brown rice. To make the flour, the husk of rice or paddy is removed and raw rice is obtained. The raw rice is then ground to form rice powder, also known as rice flour. Rice flour is a particularly good substitute for wheat flour, which causes irritation in the digestive systems of those who are gluten-intolerant. Rice flour is also used as a thickening agent in recipes that are refrigerated or frozen since it inhibits liquid separation.
Selecting and Buying
As a human food, rice continues to gain popularity in many parts of the world where other coarse cereals, such as maize, sorghum and millet, or tubers and roots like potatoes, yams, and cassava have traditionally dominated. For example, of all the world’s regions, Africa has had the sharpest rise in rice consumption during the last few decades.
Preparation and Use
Plain flour refers to a relatively low-protein white wheat flour that has no particular attributes. Because of this it can also be of a poor or variable quality, as it isn’t required to meet any general industry criteria. One technical director of a large milling company told me the believed much of the plain flour sold was rubbish; my view is that there is always a characteristic in any flour that can be used in a good way, and the trick is to identify it. I tend to go for a branded plain flour or larger supermarket own-label (not the value range) as these larger companies usually set specific in-house criteria and put their suppliers through a few hoops to meet them.
Conserving and Storing
Most types of flour keep well in a sealed container in a cool, dry, and dark location. The original paper packaging used for many types of flour is fine for long term storage as long as the package has not been opened. Once open, the shelf life decreases. Many types of flour are now marketed in resealable plastic bags that increase shelf life.
The refrigerator is a very good storage area for flour, but the use of a sealed container is even more important to prevent the flour from absorbing moisture as well as odors and flavors from other foods stored in the refrigerator. The freezer compartment can be used for long-term storage, but when using a sealed container or a freezer bag, make sure it is full to eliminate as much air as possible. Most types of flour can also be tightly wrapped for freezer storage, but wrapping is often an awkward method for storing large quantities. Wrap the flour tightly in plastic followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Avoid refrigerating or freezing flour in its original paper packaging because paper is porous and the flour may absorb moisture and odors, however if the flour has not been opened, the paper package can be stored in the refrigerator of freezer if the package is tightly wrapped with plastic.
Flour milled from whole grains does not keep as long as highly refined flour because the germ portion of the whole grain can cause the flour to become rancid over time. Flour that does not look or smell good should not be used. It is best to buy smaller quantities of flour if you are finding it necessary to continually discard the flour due to spoilage.