Monday, October 24, 2011

Culinary IQ: Monday, October 24, 2011; Sifters

To Sift Or Not To Sift? That Is The Question.

This week I will take on some of the tools used in the kitchen, some common and some not so common.

Today I am going to discuss the sifter. Why we use it and the different options available.
The main purposes for sifting ingredients is to first mix them together. Second, to remove any lumps that may be present and last to lighten the mixture of dry ingredients so it won’t weigh down the wet ingredients you are mixing it into.
My favorite sifter is the stainless steel crank sifter. I have had one in my kitchen every since I was a kid. I like it because you can put it directly in the container you are sifting into and measure into it. Then you crank the handle to turn the wire paddle inside agains the mesh basket. The sifter holds an adequate amount of ingredients for most recipes but can be too small for recipes with a large amount of dry ingredients to be sifted together.

Similar to the stainless steel crank sifter is the squeeze sifter. I have used this type of sifter from time to time. Most of the ones I have used actually hold a smaller quantity of dry ingredients that the crank type. There is a mechanism on the handle that you squeeze resulting in a pinwheel type metal wheel rotating back and forth against a metal mesh to sift the ingredients. My experience has been that it takes longer than the crank model to sift the ingredients and the motion needed to sift the ingredients is very tiring to your hand.

In researching for this post I also found a sifter that sifts the ingredients by simply shaking the sifter. I have never used this type of sifter before but again the capacity of the sifter looked small and it seems that it could be messy if ingredients are shaken out by shaking to aggressively.

A wire mesh strainer can also be used to sift dry ingredients. Simply place the strainer on a piece of parchment, wax paper, or even foil and fill with the ingredients. Rub the ingredients against the mesh above the paper until completely sifted. The ingredients can then be folded in the paper and added as directed in the recipe. The benefit of sifting this way is that you can use a larger strainer and sift large quantities of dry ingredients.

Placing dry ingredients in a food processor and pulsing will also achieve similar results to sifting. The ingredients will be mixed and any lumps will be removed. The final results may not be as light as the sifted ones.
When sifting ingredients for a recipe it is important to follow the recipe. Usually directions for sifting of dry ingredients are given in the instructions but from time to time they can be given in the ingredient list. Example: 2 cups sifted flour vs. 2 cups flour, sifted. The first 2 cups sifted flour means to sift the flour and then measure it; the latter, 2 cups flour, sifted means to measure the flour and then sift it. Sifting flour changes the measurable volume and therefore not following the recipe can have negative affects on your finished product.
So to answer the question, to sift or not to sift? I say follow the recipe.

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