Why is it so hard to get self-raising flour in Germany?

Seen as a necessity by many British and American bakers, trying to find this ingredient in German supermarkets will result in frustration.

A person gets ready to bake bread
If you're baking in Germany, keep in mind that it is tricky to find self-raising flour. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

When I first heard about how difficult it is to find self-raising flour in Germany (self-rising, for you Americans), I couldn’t quite believe it.

Surely it’s just listed under a different name, I thought. But when a thorough search of my local Kaufland didn’t reveal any self-raising flour at all, I was forced to seek answers from the more knowledgeable bakers in the expat community of Germany.

Where can you buy self-raising flour in Germany?

Even though self-raising flour is most likely missing from your local supermarket’s shelves, there are other ways to find it in Germany: one common suggestion on the Toytown Germany expat forum was to scour the shelves of any foreign supermarket – be it Indian, East Asian, British or American store.  Although these shops will often stock self-raising flour, many foreign bakers in Germany complained that this means paying steep import charges for a product that should really be quite cheap. 

READ ALSO: From Spätzle to Blaukraut: Six German cooking skills to master 

Other websites suggested that larger department stores could potentially have self-raising flour in stock. If you’re in Berlin, for example, blogger Nicolas Bouliane suggests checking out one of Berlin’s Galeria department stores (there’s one at Alexanderplatz), because they apparently often sell self-raising flour.

These options are few and far between however, especially once you leave the major cities. Because of this, a second common suggestion on foreigner forums was an enthusiastic “make your own!”, with a multitude of recipes ranging in complexity from “add a bit of baking powder” to a fully-fledged chemistry experiment.

Something to keep in mind if you end up making your own self-raising flour, writes Switzerland-based food blogger Bev, is that British and American baking powder is ‘double-acting’, which means it causes around twice as much rising as German baking powder.

When it comes to measuring your ingredients, Bev recommends using “about 1.5 to 2 times the amount [of baking powder that the recipe calls for]. Otherwise you’ll end up with flat scones.” As a general rule of thumb, therefore, she suggests adding 3-4 teaspoons of German baking powder for every 150g/60z/1 cup of plain flour.

A person bakes bread

It’s possible to bake without self-raising flour. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Swen Pförtner

But why don’t most German supermarkets sell self-raising flour?

So, it is possible to get self-raising flour in Germany after all, just not as easily as you might be used to back home.

But why? Why do Germans not have self-raising flour? The short answer is that, despite its prevalence in British recipes, self-raising flour is not strictly necessary. After all, it is just a pre-mix of flour and a rising agent, which can be easily duplicated with baking powder and a little bit of salt. Perhaps the better question is not why Germans don’t use self-raising flour, but why Brits and Americans do.

Self-raising flour was invented in 1844 by a British baker, Henry Jones, who hoped it would allow sailors to bake fresh bread on voyages, as a replacement for the rock-hard crackers that the sailors were given with their meals. It does nothing more than make the baking process a little faster and more fool-proof, and despite wide popularity in Britain (as well as in some of the UK’s former colonies and the southern states of the US), it never truly spread to other countries. 

Since Germans don’t have a problem mixing baking powder into their flour themselves (in fact, some seemed pretty confused by the idea of self-raising flour, calling it a pointless invention), there simply isn’t much of a market for self-raising flour in Germany.

Unfortunately for those of us who have grown up baking with the convenience of self-raising flour, it is unlikely to appear on standard supermarket shelves in Germany any time soon. So, when you next see self-raising flour in a recipe you want to follow, you have two choices: either head over to the nearest foreign supermarket, or get mixing.

Useful vocabulary

Flour – (der) Mehl

Baking powder – (der) Backpulver

Recipe (das) Rezept

To bake – backen

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Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

Vaccines for children aged six months to five-years-old are currently being rolled out in the United States. But can very young children also get a Covid jab in Germany?

Reader question: Can under-5s get vaccinated against Covid in Germany?

At the moment, only children aged five and above can get vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of a reduced dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine for children between the ages of five and 12, and this age group are able to get vaccinated by doctors at practices or at dedicated vaccine centres.

Back in May, Germany’s Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) issued a general Covid jab recommendation for 5-12 year olds. Previously, they had only recommended the shots to children with pre-existing conditions or vulnerable contacts.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends Covid jabs for all children over five

Of course, some parents are keen to get their younger children vaccinated as well – and news from the US, where both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech has recently been approved for children under five, has given them hope that the same will happen in Germany.

So what exactly is going on?

Well, at the moment, there does seem to be some movement in that direction, but things are still up in the air. 

Back in April, Moderna announced that it had submitted a request to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a variation to the conditional marketing authorisation.

In plain English, this means they want permission to roll out a 25mg dose of their vaccine (as part of a two-dose series) for children aged six months to five years. This is the same dosage that is being used to vaccinate toddlers and babies in the US. 

In response to a question from The Local, Pfizer/BioNTech said it was also planning to file for authorisation for the under-fives vaccine from the EMA in early July. 

Depending on the EMA’s decision, this could pave the way for very young children to get the Covid jab in Germany.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the authorities will be recommending that all parents rush out and vaccinate their young’uns. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group back in March, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) struck a cautious tone when talking about vaccines for under fives.

“In the studies, the vaccines have not shown the immunisation effect in young children that we had hoped for. But it is precisely in this age group that the effect must be particularly clearly proven,” he said.

“It is therefore unclear at the moment whether there will be a vaccination recommendation for under-fives in Germany.”

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

For its part, the EMA said it was in talks with Pfizer ahead of the submission of its application for approval.

“To date, no application for an extension of indication for the use of Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) in children under five has been submitted to EMA,” a spokesperson for the EMA told The Local.

“However, EMA is in contact with the company about the possible submission of data and we will communicate on our website should we receive a request for an extension of indication.”

At the time of writing, the German Health Ministry and Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had not responded to a request for comment.