I have posted before about my bread baking. I make sourdough from a starter I purchased from King Arthur Flour now 4 years ago. I got a new Kitchen Aid Stand mixer in 2010, and I no longer have to knead by hand. You can read that post here.
Because I am always working on baking bread, be it hearth bread or sourdough, I keep a small inventory of various flours around. For instance, I use a small percentage of whole wheat flour in my hearth bread. Mrs. PolyKahr likes Rye bread, so when she begins agitating for that, I have to purchase a small bag of rye flour. And I usually have several bags of bread flour in the cupboard. But flour, even white bread flour, tends to go bad as it ages. Wheat berries can stay fresh for several years, but once they are ground into flour, they lose their liveliness within a month or so. What to do?
The author of The Bread Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum, in her discussion on flour says to ruthlessly throw out any out of date flour in your inventory. I have found her to be correct in using out of date flour for baking bread. A couple of recent breads have not come out to my standards. I then tried some newer flour, and what a difference. Nice crispy crust, chewy, open crumb with large holes, and a slightly sour flavor. At the same time, throwing out flour seems to be a waste of money at a time when every penny counts.
The first thing I use out of date flour for is feeding my sourdough. There are times I am not actively baking bread, but I need to keep Fred (my starter) fed. During those times, I feed him out of date flour. When I am baking again, I of course feed him the new flour, but between times he can keep alive on the old stuff. Then there are those tasks during bread baking that call for spreading flour on the counter. As mentioned, I no longer knead by hand, having a 575 watt mixer with a dough hook that kneads better than I can, but in shaping the dough, there is no substitute. Since flour spread on the counter is to keep the dough from sticking, and otherwise won't be incorporated into the bread, why not use old, out of date flour?
If anyone has any other ideas, I am open. I have a five pound bag of King Arthur Bread Flour that went out of date, and I didn't notice. It will take some time to use that up.