Have you ever bit into a homemade cake and been startled by a chunk of chalky powder in your mouth? Or have you had cookies come out denser and harder than they should be? The solution to these situations may be as easy as shifting flour before adding it into the recipe.
Sifting is the process of sending flour through tiny grates, whether using a flour sifter or a sieve. Often times flour that has been sitting in a container or bag will lump over time. The sifting process aerates the flour, making it much finer, softer and able to absorb liquids more evenly. The softer flour creates lighter, evenly cooked pastries, cakes and pancakes.
It is important to note that sifting effects measurements of dry ingredients. Aerating the flour creates a lighter product in weight, meaning 5 oz of flour suddenly weighs 4 oz. This could make a big difference in your final product. It is important to pay close attention to the wording in your recipe. A recipe that calls for sifted flour is sifted before measuring while flour sifted is measured before sifted. To get the most accurate results, sift the flour before measuring unless otherwise called for.
Years ago sifting would be called for in recipes to help remove impurities such as rocks and insect particles from the flour. With modern regulations and food safety standards these concerns are minimized. Machines are now used to pre-sift flour before packaging. Because of this, sifting is less common in modern recipes.
If you find yourself having a dense baked product without a solution, try sifting flour the next time you make it. It could make a big difference in how the final product turns out. How do you feel about sifting? Do you find it is worth the extra time and energy?