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If the recipe calls for sifting before measuring, then you should do it because sifting lightens the flour, and you will end up with a different weight than if you scooped or spooned.

According to King Arthur, their all-purpose flour has 11.7% protein and their cake flour has 8.0%. This could be a big difference. A cake that comes out perfect with cake flour might be heavy and tough with all-purpose. A muffin that normally uses all-purpose flour might be pasty or crumbly with cake flour. There's a conversion equation somewhere, but it's better to run out and buy the right flour, to be on the safe side.

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Plus, the measurement will come out the same for you, Andy, because in the UK they measure dry ingredients properly:  by weight.  It is extremely frustrating to work from an American recipe where a large amount of flour is specified only in cups and they don't mention how they measured the cups (dip and sweet? scoop into cup?).

On the upside, this had led me to become more proficient at adjusting flour and liquid amounts.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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  • 3 weeks later...

For cakes, I urge everyone to weigh and sift their flours--every time. It's usually more efficient to weigh first, then sift.

Granted, some baking applications do not require aerated flour; however, all baking applications require flour to be free from bugs and insect bits and debris. Older flour can be prone to clumping together--and those little clumps can survive all the way through the baking process.  You don't want to cut into a genoise or a chocolate cake and see little white balls.

Most recipes are based on specific flours and I'd recommend that you do not try to substitute AP flour for cake flour or vice versa--unless you are specifically experimenting to create a different effect.  Also, flour composition varies widely, even within general categories like "AP."  I'd recommend you 1) buy a good digital scale, surprisingly inexpensive these days, that weighs in both grams and ounces and 2) get used to one particular cake flour brand--say Soft as Silk--convert your favorite recipes from volume to weight--and use that brand all the time.

For Mamster and Americans that are frustrated by imprecise, dumbed-down recipes by our food media, seek out the very few sources that treat home bakers with respect--like "Dessert Circus" by Jacques Torres, his first book--which provides recipes by weight.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I heartily concur that weight is the only way to go when measuring flour or any other solid ingredient where volume can be variable. It's amazing to me that American cookbooks persist in using highly flawed volume measurements. In one test I saw, volume variation was in excess of 50% using flour that had been stored and handled differently. Weight can be slightly variable on account of moisture content, but the tolerances are much tighter. My digital scale from Salter cost less that ฤ and doubles as a postal scale which I need anyway. Conversely if you have a good postal scale chances are you can use it in the kitchen under home-use conditions. As a rule of thumb, and Steve Klc please correct me if I'm wrong, when a recipe calls for a cup of flour it can be converted to 125 grams. I've seen conversions ranging from 113 to 130 grams per cup of flour, but 125 has worked well for me.

More importantly, though pastry recipes are quite precise, it is still necessary to have a feel for the desired consistency of your batter, dough, or whatever. In the recipes we make all the time, no matter how carefully we measure, sometimes for whatever reason the emerging batter will look and feel too wet or too dry. This sometimes necessitates the addition of a little more flour or some more wet ingredients for balance.

As for different types of flour, and the seemingly infinite variations within type, let's have a new thread on that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It is extremely frustrating to work from an American recipe where a large amount of flour is specified only in cups
You may be happy to know that new a book of Pierre Herme's chocolate desert recipes lists weights for ingredients. They are in parentheses and noted after the dry or liquid measurements, but they are there.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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First, when I worked in France, for a famous chef no less, we'd sift the flour to remove the bugs (no kidding).

Second, you can use pastry flour in place of all-purpose by adding equal amounts of pastry and bread flour to equal the amount of all-purpose flour called for in your recipe (150g of AP flour can be replaced by 75g of pastry flour and 75g of bread flour).

Third, here in Canada, 1 cup of AP flour weighs between 135 and 150g. I use 150g because I prefer to always weigh recipes slightly in excess.

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Yes, it goes without saying that the flour weighs more in Canada! But seriously, I do have some questions in this regard, but I'm going to ask them on the flour thread.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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