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What is the exact meaning of the phrase 'sift together'? If I need to 'sift together' flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt, does that mean put each one into the sifter sequentially, operating the sifter until is is empty before adding the next one?

Or maybe I'm supposed to dump all these things into the sifter at once and then sift until it's empty? Perhaps I should dump all the ingredients into a bowl, mix them with a spoon, then sift the resulting mixture?

Bonus points if you can tell me if I still need to stir ingredients which I have 'sifted together' in order to mix them. Thank you!

  • If you're paranoid, and want to make sure the ingredients all incorporate well, you can measure out everything but the flour, and check it for lumps or other problems. If so, mix it with a fork to break it up some, put some of the flour in the sifter, then everything else (stir again w/ the fork if you'd like, then top w/ the rest of the flour, and sift it. – Joe Jan 20 '17 at 20:28
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Or maybe I'm supposed to dump all these things into the sifter at once and then sift until it's empty?

Bingo.

Bonus points if you can tell me if I still need to stir ingredients which I have 'sifted together' in order to mix them.

Nope. The sifting process and subsequent stirring in of other ingredients should do the job just fine.

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Elendil's answer has it. I'd just respond to one other element of the question:

Perhaps I should dump all the ingredients into a bowl, mix them with a spoon, then sift the resulting mixture?

Usually not necessary, but you can. (Better yet, use a whisk instead of a spoon.) It really depends on the recipe and how critical it is to have things like leaveners (baking soda/powder) or other "clumpy" ingredients distributed evenly.

In a large recipe where you can't fit all the ingredients in the sifter at once, you may particularly want to "pre-mix" the ingredients before sifting. Or, alternatively, sift everything twice to ensure distribution.

(It seems like many years ago this double sifting was fairly common in certain applications. But I don't think many people do it anymore.)

Lastly, I'd note that in some recipes the goal of sifting is to aerate the dry ingredients as well as mixing them. In that case, you definitely don't want to stir after sifting, since you'll defeat the purpose of sifting in the first place.

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    Sifting was originally necessary to remove lumps, pests, and other unwanted things. Flour quality has gotten better, and sifting has gotten a lot rarer. I haven't seen it in a while, and when I do see it, I just stir things together. It was also sometimes used to try to make consistent amounts of flour when measuring by volume. Weight is much better. – Joshua Engel Jan 20 '17 at 16:24
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    @JoshuaEngel - Absolutely. All good points. I actually wrote most of that information originally in my answer. But then deleted it because I was trying to be concise, and it didn't seem particularly on-point for the question. (As you may notice, I have a bit of problem in being too verbose in answers, but I do actually try to cut them down sometimes...) I would note that "sift together" as an instruction generally still has more modern relevance than the old sifting for "cleaning" the flour and volume measurements. Though the latter is sometimes unavoidable in using older recipes. – Athanasius Jan 20 '17 at 16:52
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    @JoshuaEngel : I sometimes do the same ... I use a whisk / whip to make sure I mix it pretty well (and fluff it up some). – Joe Jan 20 '17 at 20:26

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