Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Settle the dust, please


grenouille
 Share

Recommended Posts

My sisters and I cannot settle our differences of opinion about sifting flour before (or after) measuring. In a small scoop, here are the positions at issue:

1. If you're in a hurry, don't bother. Otherwise, do it.

2. If the recipe says sift, you have to sift. And when the recipe says sift ingredients together, you have to do that too. Otherwise the whole recipe is a disaster.

3. The original reason for sifting flour and other dry baking ingredients was because there used to be more vermin in food (did you not read The Jungle in junior high, for crying out loud?). The sifting/screening kept the big bug parts out of your food, and that was it. If one reads the molecular gastronomists correctly, sifting commercial flours these days doesn't make enough difference in volume to greatly affect a recipe, at least for a home baker.

This was a silly ongoing argument until we started compiling a cookbook of family recipes to pass on to the kids, who are now adults, and doing adult things like having grandchildren and cooking for said grandchildren. The sifting argument has turned copy editing discussions into the seventh circle of hell.

Does anyone have a Solomon-like solution to this? Or are you an aspiring molecular gastronomy expert who can point us to the answer?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am sure others will weigh in here with more exact logic, but here is my take on the whole sifting of flour.

There is a difference in weight between sifted flour and non-sifted flour, so this may affect a recipe, depending on the baked good. Using a scale is your best weapon, but unfortunately, many recipes are not written in weights.

The other dilemma, the one I have a problem with, is when a recipe is written as, "sifted flour" and/or " four, sifted." The previous means to sift then measure, the latter wants the baker to measure than sift. The problem with this, not all recipe writers adhere to this informal rule and most of the time it is left off or has been dropped off as the recipe has been passed down. …Confusion city, next stop.

My solution, unless the recipe is very specific (something to keep in mind when writing one) is to use a medium whisk and whisk the flour a few times in the container or bag, then measure (some use a spoon to drop it in carefully, I don't), then sift with a sieve, usually with my other dry ingredients.

It has never failed me yet. Good question though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know you've started the Eighth Circle of Hell, now haven't you? Everybody's gonna have a different opinion on this thread and you'll be no better off than when you started. Don't say I didn't warn you.

As a 16 year pastry professional, I'll share my experience with you.

I have sifted, and not sifted, flours for small home batches of various baked goods.

I have sifted, and not sifted, flours for large batches of commercial baked goods.

I can honestly say, if there has been a darn bit of difference in either, it's just too small

to detect. Since I have come to that personal conclusion, I now never bother to sift. Any

place I can eliminate what I have deemed an unnecessary step and save some time, I

do it.

HOWEVER.

I do sift for one reason. To get lumps out. Powdered sugar. Cocoa. Stuff like that.

I never bother to sift ingredients together either. I just put 'em in a bowl and stir with

my hand. Easy.

:wink:

Edited to add:

Ok, yeah, I do sift into the bowl for genoise. It does make for easier incorporating.

Edited by chefpeon (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

HOWEVER.

I do sift for one reason. To get lumps out. Powdered sugar. Cocoa. Stuff like that.

I never bother to sift ingredients together either. I just put 'em in a bowl and stir with

my hand. Easy.

:wink:

I'm not a pastry professional, at all.

I sift for this same reason. And because I think it is just easier to incorporate into batters post sift. I don't think it changes the taste of the final product.

As for the weight/volume issue mentioned above...this is exactly why I wish recipes listed weights for measures. But I believe that is another topic that can be argued endlessly with no significant result.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. If you're in a hurry, don't bother. Otherwise, do it.

2. If the recipe says sift, you have to sift. And when the recipe says sift ingredients together, you have to do that too. Otherwise the whole recipe is a disaster.

3. The original reason for sifting flour and other dry baking ingredients was because there used to be more vermin in food (did you not read The Jungle in junior high, for crying out loud?). The sifting/screening kept the big bug parts out of your food, and that was it. If one reads the molecular gastronomists correctly, sifting commercial flours these days doesn't make enough difference in volume to greatly affect a recipe, at least for a home baker.

Yep, I do #1 and #2. Well actually I don't sift unless the recipe explicitly calls for it, or for sifting the ingredients together, in which case I use a wire strainer. As for #3, I thought it was to break flour up so there weren't any big clumps, which I also thought had been eliminated/reduced nowadays due to anti-caking agents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posted a very similar comment on another forum a few weeks ago and got a variety of different opinions. Specifically, I noted that I've always viewed "sifted flour" and "flour, sifted" to mean two different things.

"1 cup of sifted flour" to me means to sift the flour, then measure it; "1 cup of flour, sifted" means to measure the flour, then sift it. I assume recipe writers mean what they say and say what they mean, although I suspect I give most too much credit.

In any case, this thread got me off my duff and I did a little experiment just now. I measured out a cup of Gold Medal Flour that had been opened and added to the canister about two weeks ago, so it was fresh and pretty fluffy. I used a metal measuring cup, spooned the flour into it without packing it, and leveled it with a knife. I then weighed the flour on a digital scale (without the measuring cup).

I then sifted that cup of flour using a standard kitchen sifter that has 3 or 4 screens, spooned it into the same measuring cup and leveled it with a knife. I had about 3 Tablespoons of sifted flour left over. I then weighed that cup of flour, again without the cup.

Here are the results:

1 Cup Unsifted Flour = 4 5/8 ounces

1 Cup Sifted Flour = 3 3/4 ounces

That's a difference of .875 ounces of about 23.3 percent (by weight, not volume), enough to cause a significant change in the texture of many baked goods.

Perhaps the best solution is to weigh flour and other dry ingredients rather than measure them by volume, which I've been told is standard practice in commercial bakeries, but unfortunately few home recipes in the U.S. are written in that format.

I'd be interested in hearing from others who try this experiment.

Douglas Collins

Hermosa Beach, California

Un dîner sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:biggrin: Wanna know what I do?? I short the cup if it's supposed to be sifted before it's measured. I use maybe 7/8-ish cup of flour, give or take, toss it in a strainer or sifter and away I go. I'm only gonna measure once~~I just don't have the patience to measure and sift and measure and diddle around. Some recipes have a texture detail that is enhanced by sifting I think.

Unless I loose count and have to measure again to see where I'm at. :rolleyes:

But that only happened once :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But I just bought a great old sifter with the crank handle that turns a wire loop....just like grandmas

Nope havent used it yet

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And, chefpeon, I had a good chuckle when you wrote: "You know you've started the Eighth Circle of Hell, now haven't you? Everybody's gonna have a different opinion on this thread and you'll be no better off than when you started. Don't say I didn't warn you." I agree so much!

Yes, I agree - with what RD Collins wrote: "1 cup of sifted flour" to me means to sift the flour, then measure it; "1 cup of flour, sifted" means to measure the flour, then sift it.

Ok, here's something to muck up the works!

But, I always thought that "1 cup sifted flour" meant to sift the flour right into the measuring cup and level it to top! -- rather than to sift the flour onto a separate piece of parchment or wax paper, which may lead to compacting it again while you put it in a spoon to transfer it into the measuring cup!

So, for the sake of discussion, if you weigh ingredients, do you sift the flour right into the bowl that sits on top of the scale and then weigh it. Or, should you sift the flour onto a separate piece of parchment or waxed paper and then transfer it with a spoon to the scale? How much does it get compacted again??

Anyone care to jump in or comment ??? (RD Collins - we need another test!!)

Happy Baking! Sarah Phillips, President and Founder, http://www.baking911.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, here's something to muck up the works!

But, I always thought that "1 cup sifted flour" meant to sift the flour right into the measuring cup and level it to top! -- rather than to sift the flour onto a separate piece of parchment or wax paper, which may lead to compacting it again while you put it in a spoon to transfer it into the measuring cup!

So, for the sake of discussion, if you weigh ingredients, do you sift the flour right into the bowl that sits on top of the scale and then weigh it. Or, should you sift the flour onto a separate piece of parchment or waxed paper and then transfer it with a spoon to the scale? How much does it get compacted again??

Anyone care to jump in or comment ??? (RD Collins - we need another test!!)

LOL... now my head is spinning. I have always wondered this very same thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, for the sake of discussion, if you weigh ingredients, do you sift the flour right into the bowl that sits on top of the scale and then weigh it. Or, should you sift the flour onto a separate piece of parchment or waxed paper and then transfer it with a spoon to the scale? How much does it get compacted again??

Anyone care to jump in or comment ??? (RD Collins - we need another test!!)

I mean, I know when a recipe specifies a weight, then you need to weigh the ingredients to that particular weight.

But, I have found that a lot of home baker's think that it is more accurate to weigh ingredients instead of measuring them by volume.

I always add that it IS ONLY if the recipe specifies the weight in the first place. Because if a weight is not specified, there can be vast variances in what you will think the final weight should be, especially for flour - that there is not a set chart showing what 1 cup of all-purpose flour SHOULD weigh, and there can't be!

I bet if we all weighed 1 cup flour, sifted and 1 cup sifted flour, we would all come up with differences! (I don't have time to do it today, but will add to this thread when I do!)

In general, I know that I get:

ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, UNBLEACHED AND NOT SIFTED:

Spooned into metal cup and leveled to top: 4.41 ounces (125 grams)

Dipped with metal cup and leveled to top: 5.0 ounces

(And, RodneyCK, my head spins, too!)

And - "I don't do sifting (or ironing) - unless it is for cocoa powder, chiffon cakes, genoise or any other hard-to-incorporate-flour or whatever recipes I forgot to mention....."

Edited by Sarah Phillips (log)

Happy Baking! Sarah Phillips, President and Founder, http://www.baking911.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's a good (inexpensive) scale to get? (So I too can avoid the eighth circle of hell!)

Not sure which brand is the best or cheapest, but make sure it is a digital. According to Cook's illustrated, they are more accurate. With that said, mine is not digital. lol.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's a good (inexpensive) scale to get? (So I too can avoid the eighth circle of hell!)

I suppose it depends on what you mean by expensive, but Salter makes very good digital scales. I've had a Model 1100 for about 3 years. It weighs to 11 pounds in either ounces or grams in 1/10 ounce increments, and it allows you to place a bowl on the scale, press a button to set the scale to zero, and then add ingredients, thus weighing only the ingredients.

Amazon has several choices, with free shipping and no tax. The Model 1100 is $45.

Edited by RDCollins (log)

Douglas Collins

Hermosa Beach, California

Un dîner sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's a good (inexpensive) scale to get? (So I too can avoid the eighth circle of hell!)

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto has some good information. At the end there is a link to the Q/A. I have the MyWeigh 6001 and it is a great little digital scale.

Edited by slbunge (log)

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I posted a very similar comment on another forum a few weeks ago and got a variety of different opinions. Specifically, I noted that I've always viewed "sifted flour" and "flour, sifted" to mean two different things.

"1 cup of sifted flour" to me means to sift the flour, then measure it; "1 cup of flour, sifted" means to measure the flour, then sift it. I assume recipe writers mean what they say and say what they mean, although I suspect I give most too much credit.

In any case, this thread got me off my duff and I did a little experiment just now. I measured out a cup of Gold Medal Flour that had been opened and added to the canister about two weeks ago, so it was fresh and pretty fluffy. I used a metal measuring cup, spooned the flour into it without packing it, and leveled it with a knife. I then weighed the flour on a digital scale (without the measuring cup).

I then sifted that cup of flour using a standard kitchen sifter that has 3 or 4 screens, spooned it into the same measuring cup and leveled it with a knife. I had about 3 Tablespoons of sifted flour left over. I then weighed that cup of flour, again without the cup.

Here are the results:

    1 Cup Unsifted Flour = 4 5/8 ounces

    1 Cup Sifted Flour = 3 3/4 ounces

That's a difference of .875 ounces of about 23.3 percent (by weight, not volume), enough to cause a significant change in the texture of many baked goods.

Perhaps the best solution is to weigh flour and other dry ingredients rather than measure them by volume, which I've been told is standard practice in commercial bakeries, but unfortunately few home recipes in the U.S. are written in that format.

I'd be interested in hearing from others who try this experiment.

We did a similar experiment at work, but without sifting. Depending on who made a certain cake it kept coming out different. The result -- one person just scooped the flour out of the bin. The other (me) fluffed it and quickly spooned it into the cup. The third fluffed and fluffed, then gently spooned into the cup. All of us leveled. The recipe was not YET in weights.

Scooper - 1cup = 5 oz

Fluff & Spoon - 1 cup = 4.5 oz

Fluff, Fluff, & spoon - 1 cup = 4 oz

The recipe called for 15 cups of flour. Still wonder why it came out different? When you multiply that one cup difference over 15 cups we were off by 1/2 to 1 POUND of flour.

I weigh EVERYTHING and then sift depending on what I'm making and how lumpy my flour/sugar/cocoa is. As for "sift to combine", I'll give it a quick whisk in the bowl.

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
Link to comment
Share on other sites

:laugh: LOL! Sooo many wonderful replies ... and chefpeon is dead right about sifting into a genoise. I was really surprised at the difference in flour weights ... clearly, this also explains why two of the sibling combatants named in the original post using the same recipe for potato rolls turn out very different batches - one, with rolls as light and fluffy as air, and the other, with dense, chewy rolls just like Grammy used to make. (The third doesn't bother to make the rolls - she enjoys watching the competition between the other two.)

Not that this is going to make copy editing any easier (now we have the when-to-sift controversy to solve), but all of you have contributed to family peace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:biggrin: Wanna know what I do?? I short the cup if it's supposed to be sifted before it's measured. I use maybe 7/8-ish cup of flour, give or take, toss it in a strainer or sifter and away I go. I'm only gonna measure once~~I just don't have the patience to measure and sift and measure and diddle around.

HEY! I do the same thing! :laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...