You’ve seen both in baking recipes and no doubt you thought they were the same thing.
Flour, sifted simply seems like a different way of saying sifted flour.
Well, many people, when they use these terms in a recipe, probably do use them interchangeably but technically, they are different.
Flour, sifted, means that you should measure the flour first and then sift it.
Sifted flour means you should sift the flour before measuring it. The reason this is important is because the actual amount of flour you are measuring changes when it has been sifted, since air is incorporated into the flour.
This is especially important for the home cook who relies on volume measurement rather than weight.
Let’s make this abundantly clear:
- 1 cup sifted flour (flour sifted before measuring)
- 1 cup flour, sifted (flour is to be sifted after measuring)
- 1 cup flour (flour is not to be sifted, unless instructions state otherwise)
Reasons Given for Sifting
1. To break down any lumps in the flour or other ingredient with which the flour is being sifted so the uniform powder is produced (most flour should not need this).
2. To evenly combine the flour with other ingredients such as leavening ingredients (baking powder, baking soda), seasonings like salt, and flavorings (questionable).
3. To incorporate air so that the end product is lighter (probably won’t make a difference).
It is questionable whether there is a need to sift today’s flours. If a recipe calls for flour, sifted, then you should sift to be more certain you will have the right amount of measured flour, at the end. Otherwise, it is hard to say sifting will actually make a difference.