Are you new to baking and not sure how to sift flour? This article explains how and when to sift flour and you will also learn how to correctly measure flour.
Is it necessary to sift flour?
You might think that sifting flour is not necessary, and this is true for most recipes.
However, there are instances where sifting can make all the difference to the success of a recipe.
In the past when flour was milled by hand it was necessary to sift flour to remove insects and debris before it was used.
Today the purpose of sifting is to break up lumps and make the flour lighter by incorporating air between the flour particles.
Sifted flour is usually used to make delicate cakes like Angle cake, chiffon cakes, and sponges. Aerated flour is easier to incorporate into whisked or beaten eggs without deflating it. The end result is a cake with a light and delicate crumb.
How To Sift Flour
What tools do I need?
You don’t need any fancy tools to sift flour. If you want, you can buy a flour sifter but it’s not necessary, a sieve or strainer will do the job.
I must confess I do have a flour sifter and haven’t used it in years. I use a fine mesh sieve, it’s easier to clean and it sits nicely on top of a mixing bowl.
If you are just starting to learn how to cook and buying kitchen equipment, a sieve would be your best option. It can be used to strain food as well as sifting flour. Whereas, a flour sifter can only be used for sifting.
Using a flour sifter
- Fill the sifter about ¾ full with flour and hold it over a bowl or a large piece of baking paper.
- Depending on the type of sifter you have, either turn the handle on the side or pull the lever inside the handle moving it backward and forward. The flour will then fall through the mesh screen into the bowl or onto the paper.
Using a drum sifter or sieve
- Place the sieve over a bowl.
- Halfway fill the sieve with flour. Hold the sieve in one hand and gently tap the side of the strainer with the opposite hand, letting the flour fall into the bowl. (You could also stir the flour with a spoon which will force the flour through).
- If there are any lumps left in the strainer, use the back of a spoon to push them through the mesh.
How many times to sift flour?
Sifting the flour two to three times is usually enough to create sufficient aeration and take out any lumps. However, if the recipe calls for more sifting do so.
How to know when to sift flour?
The recipe will tell you if you need to sift the flour.
Do I measure flour before or after sifting?
The answer to this depends on how the recipe is written. If a recipe calls for “1 cup sifted flour” or “1 cup flour, sifted” you might think that this is the same but, there is a difference between the two.
If the recipe asks for “1 cup sifted flour” sift the flour and then measure.
If the recipe asks for “1 cup flour, sifted” measure the flour then sift.
How to measure flour into a cup?
Did you know that there is a correct way of measuring sifted and non-sifted flour?
The correct way is to drop spoonfuls of unsifted or sifted flour into a measuring cup without compacting it. Fill the cup until a mound of flour is on top, then use the back of a knife to level it off. See how its done on this video by King Arthur Flour.
Whatever you do, don’t use the cup to pick up and scoop the flour and then tap and pack it in. You will end up with way too much flour.
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