Baking Basics

The Importance of Sifting….

So I sat here thinking to myself about how despite how fast a reader I am, I cannot possibly and in good faith read a book fast enough to post a review each week as well as enjoy it at the same time. IF I was to do that, I would literally just be skimming the words so I could find some key phrases to pick up on, just so I could have something to post.

THAT’S NOT WHAT WE ARE HERE FOR FOLKS!!!

I started this blog so I could help spread my joy or baking as well as reading and find a common ground between the two. What’s the point of reading a book if you’re not going to take the time to enjoy what you are reading….

Needless to say, I have decided to find a solution to our problem outside of quitting my job so I can read more (don’t think the husband would appreciate that) or hiding in the corner at work so I can skim a few pages every couple of minutes. No, what I have come to the conclusion of is that I will post a baking related blog on something of a hint or tip that I have personally learned or come across, along with a recipe or two that corresponds to that tips.

No one starts out a baker or a chef. They take the time to practice their craft, experiment, and try out new techniques so as to improve. I have always loved the idea of just gathering random ingredients and playing around with recipes to see how I can tweak them or even possibly improve them if luck be in my corner.

However…….

That little thing called money seems to not agree with that pastime. Wasting twenty to fifty dollars worth of ingredients just to find that the recipe turned out too bland or too dry really adds up fast, especially when the wallet is a wee bit too tight to begin with. And seems a bit wasteful too.

Image result for recipe test
White Cake Test

So as my nature dictates as well as MANY years of schooling, I tend to research my endeavors prior to commencing them. I read other food blogs out there, I find cookbooks that offer insight into why certain ingredients pair well with one another and explore cooking maganizes that breakdown to how-tos and the whys so I can better understand why my dessert turns out the way it does.

 

I recent spent the weekend handing out with my mother prior to my nephew’s birthday party which happened to be the following day. My sister had asked if she would bake her famous “cut-out cookies” that we had all known since we were kids. Not out of the norm for my mother to just whip up a batch of these in no time at all as she has made this recipe probably over a 100 times and can do it with her eyes shut no doubt.

Now that the back story has been set, here comes our life lesson of the day and the reason for the post…..

Image result for sifter I thought it would be a great idea and civil at the least, to offer to make the second batch that we would end up needing as she had graciously already made the first. Little did I know that even at 32 years of age, your mother still and always will know best.

I set about following the recipe as it instructed. I pulled out the butter to let it soften and once it was malleable, I creamed it together with eggs until it was nice and fluid. The second part calls for flour, baking powder, and salt to be sifted together prior to them being added.

Here’s where we ran into trouble…..

The whole point of sifting/whisking flour is to aerate it before it is added to the batter prior to cooking. This allows for the dough to combine properly and remove clumps so that it cooks evenly and rises appropriately.  With the removal of the excess debris, it transforms the flour/dry ingredients into a powder and makes deliciously fluffy cookies.

Back to our story….

When we came to this step in our recipe, I chose to whisk the ingredients rather than use a sifter despite my mother’s warnings.

True or False?  Does Sifting Make a Better Cake?  |  Baking Science article by Summer Stone for TheCakeBlog.com
Sifted vs unsifted

I was under the impression that whisking had the same effect as sifting…..I was wrong.

Upon adding the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture, the dough became clumpy and dry. Even kneading the dough together to try and mix it my hand rather than with the help of the mixer didn’t keep it together. I would roll the dough out and try to pack it together, but upon cutting the cookie out, it would crumble in my hand.

To further teach her lesson, we baked a single batch to compare to hers. Her cookies came out light and fluffy while mine became mini brickettes.

Image result for bricks

The explanation was this…..whisking does mix dry ingredients together, but doesn’t break down the flour fine enough to allow the dough to adhere correctly and ingredients to mix properly. By sifting the flour, I could feel the difference between the original flour, the whisked flour, and the sifted. The sifted flour was much lighter and smoother, with a powder-like consistency while the whisked flour was much heavier and not as uniform.

Now reading into this a bit more, it turns out people are divided on the subject. Some claim that whisking allows for moisture to get into cake batters better whereas sifting allows for finer texture such as with cookies.

From my experience, simply with cookies, sifting proved to be a better path. The aeration process had an extreme effect on how well the ingredients combined and ultimately the taste. Visually, the cookies appeared more appealing and had a fluffier visual effect on my tastebuds.

Sifting is important in recipes that require a light, delicate cakes such as angel cake or sponge cake. Also, if the flour you are using has been sitting around for awhile and seems very tightly packed, sifting is also a good idea before using it so that you’re not measuring out overly packed cups full of clumps that will weight the recipe down.

 

Sooooooo lesson of the day, if the recipe says to sift, SIFT IT!!! And if you are looking for a recipe to use cookie cutters with that works for any occasions, here’s my mother’s now infamous cut-out cookie recipe with is perfect with Easter right around the corner…

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CUT OUT COOKIES

(Recipe by Jill Torgerson)

PREP TIME: 10 Minutes

BAKE TIME: 10-12 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup butter or margarine (butter flavored crisco will work too)

4 eggs

3 cups sugar

6 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 tsp vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and eggs with an electric mixer. Make sure they are fully creamed together with no clumps.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together.
  4. Add the dry ingredients slowly into the butter mixture, along with the vanilla combining them together.
  5. Rollvthe dough out onto floured surface and cut out cookies with desired shape
  6. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until edges appear golden brown
  7. Enjoy!

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Special thanks to Kitchn for their further explanation I needed on sifting as well as Joy the Baker and The Cake Blog for the various pictures and diagrams present here today.

 

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Sifting….

    1. Thanks for the response! I’m constantly working on improving my techniques as well. Let me know if there is anything I can write about to help you out. I always need more excuses, I mean reasons to bake 😉

      Like

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