Instant flours (like Wondra) are very interesting things, low-gluten wheat flours that are extremely handy for thickening sauces (especially gravy before a turkey dinner!). What makes them “instant”? Simply the fact that they’re cooked ahead of time so as to cause the starch granules to swell and gelatinize. Then they’re dried again. The process is akin to what’s done to “minute” rices, since it allows water to penetrate the starch granules that much quicker the second time around. Because instant flour dissolves so quickly, it’s a terrific alternative to standard flour as a thickener (which tends to create lumps when it’s added to a liquid).
Stews, soups and sauces, however, are just the beginning of what can be done with instant flour. Some pastry makers swear by instant flour as an alternative to cake flour when formulating a made-from-scratch pastry flour. Since instant flour isn’t bleached heavily, it doesn’t have an acidic aftertaste. And because it won’t rise at all, it helps keep pie crusts flaky.