Ever read through a recipe that calls for sifted flour and think, “does sifting really make a difference?” The answer is a resounding yes. Sifting serves multiple, important purposes:
- It aerates the flour. All-purpose flour has a very fine texture (doubly true for cake flour), which can cause it to clump together. Sifting breaks up lumps and also incorporates air between the flour particles, allowing it to absorb liquid more evenly.
- It standardizes the density of the flour, allowing it to be measured more accurately (measuring by weight with a kitchen scale is most precise for baking).
- It ensures other dry ingredients are evenly distributed. Sifting flour together with other dry ingredients, like cocoa powder, baking powder or salt, helps to disperse them into one uniform mixture.
The good news is that sifting flour is quick and easy…you don’t even need a sifter!
Get a jumpstart by transferring your flour to an airtight container as soon as you bring it home from the store. Not only does this help to aerate the flour, it also ensures a longer, fresher shelf life.
Now that you’re ready to sift, choose your weapon:
Balloon whisk – Pour a measured amount of flour (and other dry ingredients, if desired) into a large bowl. Then, just like mixing up eggs for an omelet, get in there and whisk away! Continue for at least 20 seconds. This method thoroughly aerates the flour, evenly combines ingredients and gives you a good vantage point to ensure that there are no lumps or debris in the mix.
Fine Mesh Sieve – Like the whisk method, begin by pouring a measured amount of flour (and other dry ingredients) into a bowl. Take your sieve and hold it over a large, empty bowl. Carefully transfer flour mixture into the sieve, being careful not to pack it in tightly. Gently shake the sieve and tap lightly on the side, allowing flour particles to separate and pass through. This method may require more patience, but the light, fluffy, and perfectly separated results are totally worth it.
Old Fashioned Sifter – If you have one of these lying around your kitchen, don’t be afraid to use it. Just keep in mind that using a sifter is not optimal for combining dry ingredients. Your best bet is to sift each ingredient separately. Simply fill your sifter about 3/4 full, hold it over a large bowl, and tap, crank or push the button. Like a sieve, the fine mesh bottom of the sifter separates the flour particles, ensuring light and fluffy results every time.