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Back in the Old Days...

uglydoguglydog Posts: 256
edited 5:29PM in EggHead Forum
Back in the old days, as I recall, every recipe using flour said first to sift the flour. Now, as I look at pizza dough recipes and bread recipes, none of them instruct me to sift the flour. I still do sift it, probably out of habit. What effect does sifting the flour have on the finished product? Is there a reason why we don't tell people to sift first now? FYI, I am doing everything manually; no bread machine, no combination dishwasher/food mixer/car washer, no automatic food pulverizer. (I do have an electric garage door opener).


  • I was watching Food Network the other day and wondering the same thing. I always remembered seeing Mom sifting the flour and creating a cloud in the kitchen. I'm interested to see the replies to this...
  • Maybe it's like flossing. They know no one is going to do it, so they just stop asking. ;)

    I actually had a hard time finding the right sifter. I wanted one with a turn crank, that was big enough for my needs. Rather than buying one that I didn't really want, I went without for a few years, and just used a whisk to mix and fluff dry ingredients. If I really needed to make sure there weren't any lumps, I used a medium-mesh strainer. Finally, strolling through a kitchen supply store (one of those "as seen on TV" places) just a few weeks ago, I found the right sifter.
  • I think the flour now is "presifted", whatever that means.

  • in order to keep ratio of flour to liquid consistant ingredients should be weighed, since that was not a option recipes were based on volume, and sifting provided a means of keeping the measurements consistant .. imagine the difference in weight between a cup of fluffy sifted flour and a cup of packed down dense flour.. i have my mothers sifter and recently purchased a scale capable of bakers %. before the scale i wold put flour in a brown paper bag fold over the top and give it a couple of shakes and let the dust settle before opening and the pour it out of the bag
  • The "new" flour is so much better than the stuff of our grandparents it isn't even the same. My mom talks about all the lumps that used to be in the stuff even in the fifties and sixties. You just don't see that any more because of technology.
  • Celtic WolfCeltic Wolf Posts: 9,773
    Sifting was used for two reasons.

    One it removed all the grain that the mill did not get down to a flour consistency. Older milling really did use stones to grind down the grains. Today's mills use metal wheels with abrasives to grind down the grains. The new process produces a finer ground product.

    Furthermore as FSUScotman alluded too mills are now sifting their product at the mill. People are getting lazier and lazier and demanding purer products.

    The second reason was to mix the dry ingredients better. This is a practice we still should use, because it produces a more consistent product; however, that laziness comes to play. People just don't want to take the time anymore.
  • One thing that I didn't answer for you...I would still sift if you are doing cakes or cookies. I saw a test on America's Test Kitchen that showed the difference and even though they said there is really "not a need", you could tell that the sifted products were higher and they stated that they lighter and more airy. I try to sift everything but sometimes I just get in too a big hurry. I think it does make a difference.
  • Tarpon65Tarpon65 Posts: 156
    According to the people over at the sifting of flour helps with the hydration of the flour. I picked up a sifter at Bed Baths and Beyond for around $10.00 last week, plus they have 14" wooden pizza peels for $9.99. I used a $5.00 off coupon that came in the mail, so I made out nice for around $15.
  • uglydoguglydog Posts: 256
    Thanks for all the replies. Celtic Wolf's reply reminded me that at one time I had a couple of bags of stone ground corn meal; when I sifted the corn meal, I would get a few pieces of corn hull and other grenublies in the bottom of the sifter. I guess technology really has moved us along, but I'll still sift my flour. I've never been called obstinate or hard headed.

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