Properly measuring flour is crucial when baking, so it's important for every baker to learn how to measure flour correctly. Having too much flour can make your baked goods dry or sauces too thick. 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. Except for cake flour, sifting is not necessary.
2. Gently spoon flour into a dry measuring cup or a measuring spoon. Level it off the top with the straight side of a knife.
Tip: It might seem like an extra step, but be sure to spoon the flour into your measuring cup instead of scooping it out of the container with your measuring cup. Scooping the flour can cause it to become more packed together, so you might end up with too much flour.
Sifting flour can make it easier to mix into a recipe, and can also help make your baked goods lighter and fluffier. To sift flour, pour or spoon it into a strainer or sifter, then gently shake the sifter over a bowl so that the flour falls through. However, you can usually skip sifting all-purpose flour, and you don't need to sift your flour at all unless the recipe you're using calls for it. But since flour can sit and settle in the bag over long periods of time, it's a good idea to stir through the flour in its bag or container before measuring to make it make lighter. Then follow the instructions above for measuring flour.
Do you sift flour before or after measuring? Most of the time, it depends on your recipe and they type of flour you're using. You should sift cake flour before measuring it, but you usually don't need to sift flour at all unless your recipe calls for it. To know if you should sift flour before or after measuring, pay close attention to your recipe. 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 and 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!