Sift Dry Baking Ingredients: Do I Really Have to Do That?

There are certain labor-intensive recipe phrases that can make the most diligent cook roll her eyes. "Do I really have to do that?" we wonder. Every week, we will track down the answer to that question. Why? Because as much as we love cooking, we're kind of lazy. Leave your Do I Really Have To Do That? questions in the comments and they shall be answered, saving us all a lot of needless trouble.

Truth be told, I never do it. Sifting flour, baking soda, and baking powder feels like a finicky extra step in the baking process. But am I  doing harm to my cakes and muffins? Turns out, yeah.

Two-time Food Network Cupcake Wars winner Hollis Wilder sympathizes with my resistance. "Sifting is a pain because it adds an extra step to the recipe, especially when you can't wait to get the finished product in your hot little hands. But it's a must if you want a light and airy product. There are no shortcuts to perfection!"

Perfection, in this case, is a tender crumb created by aerating the dry ingredients. Sifting also catches any pesky clumps that may be hiding in your measuring cup. Biting into a hard rock of sugar isn't the worst thing ever, but a nugget of baking soda or salt is another story.

Do like the pros and sift with a fine mesh sieve instead of a handheld sifter. It's faster.

There are shortcuts if you're after something less than perfection, such as in a state of a cookie emergency. "If you're in a hurry, mix everything with a whisk," advises Le Cordon Bleu-trained baker Maggie Wickes of Maggie Louise Bakes. She also shares an industry tip: "For speed, I shake my ingredients through a fine mesh colander instead of a handheld sifter." (For what it's worth, denser desserts, like cookies, don't require the same airy tenderness as cakes in order to be a delicious baking triumph, so you can feel safer cutting this particular corner.)

Final verdict: Yes, you really have to do that. If you want to guarantee a clump-free tender crumb and an even rise to your baked goods, sifting is a must. Speed up the process by making like the pros and using a fine-mesh sieve instead of a handheld sifter. Whisking dry ingredients will do in a pinch.

Tweet your lazy cook questions to us @YahooShine #doireallyhavetodothat or leave them in the comments.

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