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Weighing flour
Posted: 10 July 2008 12:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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TCB calls for sifted cake flour.  What I usually do is weigh the flour first then sift it.  It suddenly dawned on me that I may be doing it wrong.  Maybe I should be sifting the cake flour first then weighing it.

Which is correct -

(1)  sifting first followed by weighing; or
(2)  weigh then sift

Out of curiosity, how many times do you sift the flour for cakes - once, twice, .........???

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Posted: 10 July 2008 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Logically the best measuring accuracy would be achieved by sifting first. No matter how good your sifter you will lose a tiny amount of flour in the sifting process. Whether those minute amounts matter a hill of beans is certainly open to reasonable debate. I could see how some recipes might want the maximum air mixed with the flour in which case sifting immediately before mixing would be the answer. Hello cake people! What are your thoughts?

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Posted: 10 July 2008 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Gene’s answer sounds very logical. I’m not sure it matters a lot when you sift, as long as you are weighing it.

Now, if you are NOT weighing it, but are measuring by volume, then it matters a LOT when you sift. As a rule, if the recipe says “sifted cake flour” then you sift before measuring (Rose has you sift it right into the measuring cup). If the recipe says “cake flour, sifted” then you sift after measuring.

As far as number of times to sift—I don’t know. Anybody else out there know?

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Posted: 10 July 2008 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I always weigh, and the only cakes I bother sifting for are sponge-type cakes.  In that case, I sift into the weighing bowl—so I measure while sifting I guess, but I have an battery sifter, so it happens quite quickly.  For butter cakes, I just weigh and don’t sift.

By volume, for Rose’s recipes, you should sift into the cup, and then level off as Barbara says.

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Posted: 10 July 2008 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Barbara - 10 July 2008 05:07 AM

As a rule, if the recipe says “sifted cake flour” then you sift before measuring (Rose has you sift it right into the measuring cup). If the recipe says “cake flour, sifted” then you sift after measuring.

Jillyn, Barbara’s is right. Here’s a link from the blog:

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2006/03/is_it_really_necessary_to_sift.html

Also scroll down to the bottom of the page and read Zach’s question re sifting flour and Rose’s response.

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Posted: 10 July 2008 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I do a little short cut - I weigh the flour in grams, right in my mixing bowl, then I sift it by whisking by hand.  I don’t own a hand held sifter - prefer to use either a whisk or a sieve.

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Posted: 10 July 2008 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I put my mixing bowl on a scale (for butter cakes or any cake using Rose’s two-stage mxing method where the dry ingredients are placed in the bowl first and mixed) and sift directly into the bowl until it reaches the specified weight. I have an old hand sifter from my grandmother that isn’t perfect, but I am sentimental and just enjoy using it.
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Posted: 10 July 2008 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I think you all are on the right track.  Do point that Softasilk cake flour and similar brands are already sifted and the compaction on such small and well protected box packaging is not that much to tell different results.  If you use a never sifted flour, such as bakery cake flour coming from a 50 lb sack, I think it will make a difference on you butter cakes!

I also have the battery operated sifter, was a great $20 investment, specially because it is as mess free as it gets and so quick and one hand job.

I weight prior to sifting, this when using Softasilk cake flour.

It will be interesting to get hold of Rose’s master thesis on sifting and butter cakes.

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Posted: 12 July 2008 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Just wanted to share my observation.

I had recently baked 2 cakes after posting this question.  This time I had sifted the flour first before weighing it.  I note that the cake mixture is not as thick as when I weighed the flour first before sifting.

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Posted: 13 July 2008 11:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Matthew - 10 July 2008 12:11 PM

I always weigh, and the only cakes I bother sifting for are sponge-type cakes.  In that case, I sift into the weighing bowl—so I measure while sifting I guess, but I have an battery sifter, so it happens quite quickly.  For butter cakes, I just weigh and don’t sift.

By volume, for Rose’s recipes, you should sift into the cup, and then level off as Barbara says.

I agree with Matthew. I weigh my flour and do not bother with sifting unless I’m making a sponge-type cake.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jilllyn ~

How did the two cakes differ after baking?  Or did they differ?

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Posted: 18 July 2008 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I did this experiment this morning. I sifted 10 oz of flour into a pie plate on my admittedly poor little postal scale. Then I carefully compacted the flour by pressing a second pie plate over the sifted flour. After compaction the flour weighed 9.9 oz. I conclude that when you weigh sifted flour you are weighing some of the air trapped between the grains of the flour?

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Posted: 18 July 2008 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I just tried the same experiment and ended up the exact same gram weight after compaction.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I duplicated my results with the 10 oz. Then I tried 30 gms. After compaction I get 29.8 gms.
What I am doing is placing the pie plate on the scale. Turn the scale on and sift directly onto the pie plate. I attempt to create a high mound in the middle of plate because it seems to me that would simulate trapping the most air and also simulate measuring larger quantities better. Then I carefully compact with the second pie plate making sure that I shake back any flour that might cling to the compactor and return the compacted pie plate to the scale.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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That’s pretty interesting… I repeated the procedure and followed your steps exactly, using 40 grams of flour, but still end up with the same weight after compacting the flour.  I wonder if the type of sifting implement used makes any difference?  I used a mesh sieve and let the flour mound in the middle like you suggested.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 04:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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My scale is a digital postal scale. I weighed several objects. I moved the scale. I put the scale on different surfaces. I turned the scale on and off between weighings. In short everything within reason. It always gives the same weight. I too am sifting with a fine sieve. Maybe our difference is the flour and possibly its moisture content. I am using Bob’s Red mill organic all purpose flour. I opened the bag two days ago. The relative humidity here is fairly low and the temperature is a moderate 65 degrees. LOL  Maybe its my extraordinary physical ability to compress flour. Anybody else out there with too much time on their hands today? Let’s see what results the local gravity gradients around the globe can produce.

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