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Is it really necessary to sift flour?

Mar 21, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Not if you weigh it. Sifting makes it easier to measure consistently. It does not, however, evenly incorporate dry ingredients. Whisking them together by hand, beating them in a mixing bowl, or whirling them for a few seconds in a food processor does a far better job of mixing.

Comments

that sounds delightfull.

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i watched a show today on christian broadcasting channel 19 around 12 noon and watched judi byrd's kitchen making great receipes i would like to have, the kielbaska, saurkraut, red potatoes, onion thing and the lemon dessert, the sausages served with sliced baked apples. the turkey dish as well. it was today 4-2-09 so hope you can help thanks marlene

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I love to bake but am not the best at it or educated at it. I was making a dough for cookies the other day and it turned out very crumbly and dry; I couldn't roll it out. The recipe doesn't call for sifted flour or cornstarch but should I anyways? I first mixed, with a beater (can't afford a kitchenaid, yet!) softened butter, lime zest and conf. sugar tgh. (Should I sift the conf. sugar too?) Then I folded in flour and cornstarch. The butter mix of course was nice and wet but after the dry, it was already crumbly. Should I put them in all tgh or should I put alittle dry, then mix, a little more dry, etc or is this too much and the gluten develops more? Also, does anyone know what happens to butter past the exp. date?

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Dear Rose,

I'm planning to make a surprise ricotta cake for my sister's 21st birthday as it's her absolute favorite. The problem is that i'd like to bake it in a pastry crust not a cookie one, and i'm not sure which one to use as i don't want it to go awful and soggy! Also, am i required to pre-bake the crust? I have all of your books so feel free to just throw me a name! Many appreciative and sincere thanks!

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Lauren,
It seems to me that the extra protein would toughen the cake and possibly make it slightly drier, but maybe someone will have a more specific answer for you. I know that Rose goes a step further, beyond using cake flour, to reduce protein because she replaces it with part corn starch.

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Hi Rose,
I know that bleached flour is vital to maintain structure and lightness in butter based cakes, but does this rule apply to fatless sponge cakes? Also, when dealing with a fatless sponge, is it more advantageous to use flour with a protein content of around 10% in comparison to the usual 8%?

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Cindi Chiu:
I use regular granulated sugar and a regular mesh strainer. (Not the kind that is super super fine...I have one of those that I use for things like creamed soups...to make them really silky). I just use a regular mesh strainer...the kind my mother used to strain spaghetti when I was a kid. If you mix the ingredients with a spoon, scraping the bottom of the strainer, the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder/soda will all go through the strainer together. Hope it works for you.

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Sue Epstein
Sue Epstein
10/ 5/2007 01:48 AM

I sometimes weigh my flour and sometimes measure but I ALWAYS sift my flour with a fine sifter because I have found tiny bugs in it at times.

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Bill, Thanks for your tips. It sounds very practical but one question , can the sugar pass through the strainer easily?Do you use superfine sugar or a special strainer?

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I would like to add my two cents to the flour-sifting discussion. I always sift...its the obsessive part of me that feels that flour should be aerated. I weigh my ingredients rather than measuring with cups...but when using the two-stage mixing method...I add my ingredients as follows: Since my mixer, even on the slowest speed, starts very abruptly, mixing the dry ingredients with the electric mixer tends to make a mess (even with plastic wrap over the top of the mixer) Also, I like to beat the butter a little first...to be sure it is soft and smooth, so first I place the butter in the mixer bowl and beat it a little. Next I place the mixer bowl on a scale and put a strainer over the bowl with the butter. I weigh all my dry ingredients into the strainer. I mix the dry ingredients together with a spoon, in the strainer and sift them into the butter. I then add the liquid and mix together. So...I sift and mix the dry ingredients at the same time. This way I sift the flour, but I don't feel like it is an extra step. Also, weighing the ingredients into the strainer saves on washing up bowls. First I weigh in the flour, then I zero the scale and weigh in the sugar. I add the levening agent and salt and mix away! I don't know if this is helpful to anyone...but I guess I like to "hear myself talk" I know...type.

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Good vanilla will not only flavor your baked goods, but it will also accent other flavors (much like salt). Good vanilla can be expensive, but it's worth every penny.

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Mary Boasso
Mary Boasso
10/ 1/2007 03:26 PM

Is Vanilla a necessary ingredient in baking, or can it just be omitted. Good vanilla is expensive.

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Thanks a bunch Zach! I'm going to try that.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
07/27/2007 10:42 AM

I love that!

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if they fall in the center--as is probable when using unbleahced flour--all you have to do is fill the depression with something yummy!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
07/26/2007 04:40 PM

...p.s...I can't imagine any cupcake recipe that any kid wouldn't like, unless it's using broccoli buttercream.

I would make both chocolate and vanilla cupcakes to appeal to both. Rose has some wonderful buttercreams and ganache icings you can use, in her books. Check out the Cake Bible.

Zach

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
07/26/2007 04:37 PM

Tina,

I have had very good results with cupcake recipes using unbleached all purpose, but in that recipe the butter was melted and blended with the chocolate and I used leavening. Why don't you whip up a batch of 6 or 12 with the recipe you want to use and see - that will give you the best answer.

Zach

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Oh! sorry! I posted my comment on the wrong page. Well if someone would like to answer this off the subject question they can. I'll go ahead and post it on the righ page as well.

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I want to make some cupcakes for an art camp I help out at. I know that the best flour for the job would be either cake flour or bleached all purpose flour, but all I have is a ton of unbleached all purpose flour. Since I have so much flour I want to use it instead of buying more. Is it still possible to get good results using unbleached all purpose flour? Are there any tricks to it, or would it just be better to buy the correct type of flour? Also does any one have any sugestions for great cupcakes that even a picky kid would eat?

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I transfer my baking soda to an airtight container too (glass jar). Here's why - 1) it won't absorb moisture or odors from the kitchen. 2) it is so much neater than the messy box it comes in. and 3) I put a piece of scotch tape across the top of the jar to scrape the excess off my measuring spoons (think baking powder can). The tape stays in place, even when I screw the jar lid on and off.

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Re premixing: I and my kids who bake have noticed that baking soda does not do well premixed. In fact, we now transfer baking soda, when we buy it, into an airtight container. I don't know why this helps (in recipes such as chocolate chip cookies, muffins with fruit, sour milk cupcakes).

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
04/17/2006 02:51 PM

Ashley,

Flour provides structure to the cake through its protein that forms gluten when moisture is added to the flour. Without flour, a spongcake would be very dense or have no structure to stay together (depending on the mixing method used). There are cakes that do not use flour, or at least very little, but instead use ground nuts, for instance. But these are more so dense, torte-like cakes. If you're creating a sponge cake using aeration, flour to some degree will be necessary to hold the cake together.

Zach

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will u tell me why flour is nessasary for baking a cake or any other baking products?

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i agree. the best thing is to add the leavening just before mixing. in cake mixes all sorts of emulsifiers are added which help to give shelf stability and prevent premature reaction of the leavening.

actually i taught at judi byrd's cooking school in ft. worth and will return probably after my next book in 2008. ask her to add you to her mailing list so she can alert you!

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
03/22/2006 09:19 AM

Rose, thanks for the tip on the new variety of baking powder. Do you know if introducing cocoa powder into the mix makes a difference in reactions where you might premix these ingredients? Actually, I think the best thing to do if someone is looking to save time is just measure the baking soda or powder into small bowls and then add just when needed, to be safe. This approach shouldn't take but an extra 2 seconds.

Something else just occurred to me - does the original question apply differently to different types of flour - cake, AP, bread, etc.? As some cake flours come with leavening, it must be possible to mix the ingredients far in advance without any reaction taking place. Perhaps it is the amount of protein in the flour that causes or prevents reactions.

p.s. Ever come to Dallas?

Zach
Dallas, TX

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actually this is an interesting question. there is a certain amount of reaction that will take place simply because flour and sugar have moisture. it is very gradual so overnight probably wouldn't make any difference. interestingly,baking powder with calcium rather than sodium (and i prefer the calcium variety) will react 2/3 with hydration and one third with heat, whereas the sodium variety is the reverse. but there is a new variety of calcium based baking powder being developed that will not react as quickly.for the time being, stick to mixing the dry ingredients to no further ahead than say 24 hours and you shouldn't see any difference in results.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
03/21/2006 06:48 PM

Speaking of flour, I assume it's okay to mix baking soda and/or powder with flour and let it sit for an indefinite time without adverse impacts to the flour mixture? Sometimes I like to do my mise en place for the dry ingredients the night before and would like to mix these ingredients but don't know if it would have adverse effects (similar to if you mixed egg yolk and sugar and let it sit too long).

Thanks, Zach

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yes--exactly so! i.e. when makinga layer cake and weighing, no need to sift the flour but when making a genoise or sponge cake, where the flour is folded into the beaten eggs and sugar, then it is important to sift the flour so that it integrates more evenly and deflates the sponge less.

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Zach Townsend
Zach Townsend
03/21/2006 03:19 PM

I like this discussion of flour sifting (it's the small things that keep me happy). I always weigh any ingredient that's practical to do so, but have a habit of always sifting the flour anyway; I guess old habits are hard to break. I guess the point here is that flour doesn't need to be sifted if not using the dip and sweep method for volume measurements. However, flour should be sifted once adding to a batter to ensure good aeration and ease of folding into the batter. Thoughts?

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