Baking ingredients such as flour, eggs, and butter may get ‘old’ after awhile if they’re not used readily. The question is, how old is too old?

Old Flour

First of all, when flour is mixed with water, gluten is formed (from proteins). The more it’s mixed (flour and water) the more gluten is formed. This is what gives dough and batter their texture and structure. During baking, moisture in the dough begins to change the starch from the flour, causing it to swell and soften. This is important for the texture and structure of the finished product.

What happens as flour ages?
Starch changes very little as flour sits. However, when the proteins that form gluten are exposed to air, they can change significantly. These changes limit the amount of gluten that can be formed.

Can it still be used?
Yes – but it is best to use flour more than 1 year old in products that don’t need a lot of gluten, like cakes and crumbly cookies. Use new flour for bread and chewy cookies…

How should it be stored?
Keep flour in a tightly sealed container, away from heat and moisture. Whole wheat flour can be stored in the freezer in air-tight bags to prevent it from becoming rancid.

Old Eggs

The protein in eggs (especially the whites) gives structure to many baked goods. Eggs also contribute moisture, and they are the only source of water in many cookie recipes.

What happens as they age?
Egg shells appear solid, but they are actually very porous. As eggs sit in the refrigerator moisture is lost through the pores. This is why old eggs (about 6 weeks) will float in water.

Can they still be used?
Yes – as long as the egg has been refrigerated, it is safe to use. According to, raw eggs in the shell can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks. With that said, eggs are unlikely to ‘go bad’ in a refrigerator, but will dry up over time.

How should they be stored? 
Keep eggs refrigerated until you are ready to use them.

Old Butter, Shortening, Oils

Butter gives flavor to many baked goods, but shortening often gives a better texture. Fats and oils “tenderize” baked products by limiting the amount of gluten that can form.

What happens as it ages?
 Fats and oils turn rancid when they are exposed to air. Oxygen reacts with fatty acids, creating off flavors and aromas. Oils, which contain more mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, become rancid more quickly than fats that are solid at room temperature.

Can it still be used?
 Yes, but if it smells bad, chances are your baked product will taste bad.

How should it be stored? 
Butter, shortening, and oils do not need to be refrigerated or frozen, but they will last much longer if they are. The chemical reaction that leads to rancidity happens more slowly at lower temperatures. The cream that’s used to make your standard market variety butter is almost always pasteurized, and it takes quite some time for pasteurized dairy products to go bad.

We have been using this Butter Crock (the ‘sea spray’ color  ) for our room temperature butter. It’s the perfect way to keep soft butter at the ready!

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