Why Sift Flour?

This aged practice may help you produce fine ground whole grain bread flour.

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by Pexels/Klaus Nielsen

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever sifted flour. In modern, everyday kitchens, it’s not such a common practice. However, flour sifters have garnered my attention since I started grinding my own whole grains for bread baking. That’s because this simple practice easily separates chunky bits of grain from the finer flour.

Don’t get me wrong, I look for those chunky bits in my whole grain breads. However, not everyone in my household has the same appreciation for them.

That conflict has led me to search out a means for producing a finer flour with the equipment I already have in my kitchen. So far, I haven’t been successful.

My food processor may not have the proper attachments for grinding grain. Although my research brought up information about using a food processor to produce flour, it didn’t work for me at all.

For several years I’ve relied on my Vitamix high speed blender to produce whole grain flour – using the dry container. It works better than any other appliance I have, but I still have to sift out the chunks, or spring for a flour mill.

If you’ve researched grain mills at all, you probably know that it will cost you between $300 and $500 for a quality flour mill. You could spend less, but some reviews of less costly equipment are not complimentary.

It will be a while before I’m ready to purchase the grain mill I really want, so what do I do in the meantime? Sift the flour.

Fortunately, I’ve cached two flour sifters in my cupboards: one vintage and one just a few years old. So, I will learn to use the newer one, knowing my flour prep will take a bit more time, for now.

If you opt to stick with a sifter (and who knows, maybe I will, too), you’ll find a range of options well beyond the iconic cylindrical, handheld sifters our mothers used.

One reasonably priced sifter option is the mesh sifter, which looks like a round cake pan, just with a fine mesh for a bottom. There is an electric flour sifter, and of course many handheld versions, including “The Original Bromwell Flour Sifter,” the first patented flour sifter first made some 200 years ago.

My approach to refining my flour will be to grind it in my Vitamix (one cup at a time, max), then sift out the unground bits, return them to the mixer and finish grinding. Generally, there’s only a tablespoon of bits that need more attention, so that doesn’t take long.

If I just ground the flour and used it as it is, it takes just moments to grind 3-1/2 cups for one loaf of bread, so adding a few minutes of sifting isn’t huge. Since this will be my process for a while, I’ll plan to grind 4 or 5 batches at a time. Doing that may reveal to me that I really don’t need a flour mill any time soon.

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.

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