Properly measuring flour is crucial when baking, so it's important for every baker to learn how to do it correctly. Having too much flour can make your baked goods dry or sauces too thick. But your recipes may not cook correctly if you use too little. Follow these two steps to make sure you know how to measure flour for baking and other recipes:
1. Stir it in the bag or canister to lighten it. Because flour tends to sit on the store or pantry shelf for a while, it settles. So it's a good idea to at least stir through the flour in its bag or container before measuring to make it make lighter.
2. Gently spoon flour into a dry measuring cup or a measuring spoon. Don't scoop it out of the container with your measuring cup, which causes it to become more packed together resulting in too much flour added to a recipe.
3. Level the flour off the top with the straight side of a knife.
Except for cake flour, sifting is not necessary unless the recipe you're using specifically calls for it. However, sifting flour can help make your baked goods lighter and fluffier.
To sift flour, pour or spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or sifter. If you're using a fine-mesh strainer, gently shake the strainer over a bowl so that the flour falls through. If you're using a sifter, squeeze the handle to move the bar on the inside that will push the flour through the mesh.
If your recipe calls for sifted flour, do you sift flour before or after measuring? That information is in the way a recipe is worded. If the recipe calls for "three cups of sifted flour," you should sift before measuring. If your recipe says, "three cups of flour, sifted," you should measure then sift.
It's also important to make sure you're using the correct tools when measuring flour. You should only use dry measuring cups (pictured above) for flour, and measuring spoons for smaller amounts. You can use just about any spoon for spooning flour out of its container and into a measuring cup, but it'll probably be a little less messy with smaller spoons like tablespoons and dining spoons.
If your recipe calls for sifted flour, you'll need to have a sifter handy--but if you don't have one, you can use a sieve or a colander. Just spoon the flour into the sieve or colander like you would with a sifter, then tap the side or use a fork to help sift the flour through.
Finally, some recipes may call for measuring flour based on weight. While this is a more accurate method of measurement than just scooping flour into a measuring cup, it does require a food scale. If you spend a lot of time baking, or frequently run across that have ingredients listed by weight, a food scale might be a great addition to your kitchen!