The Important of Details: A Lesson in Baking (or, why you should sift)

Whenever someone says to me “Oh, you’ve gone to too much trouble”, I always reply with a Julia Child quote “…nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should”

For a long time I’ve been trying to make the perfect Sacher Torte, a fabulous chocolate-y dessert hailing from Vienna. Alas my cakes always turn out dry and never leaven. It occurred to me that it was because I wasn’t taking the care that I ought to have taken to attend to every small detail of the baking process.

Living in the Mountain West the dry air often creates a challenge when baking if you aren’t careful with your ingredients.

While I can’t find the cookbook at the moment for the recipe to add here, the moral of the story is don’t just stick your measuring cup into the flour jar to scoop out your flour. Well, maybe to start. Scoop it into a sieve over a piece of wax or parchment paper. Sift your flour until it is a powdery mound, and then spoon it into your measuring cup. Level it off with a knife, bench scraper, spatula, whatever. Once you have the amount you need, sift it one more time to make it nice and light.

And sieve your preserves too! That is more personal preference. Of course if you are baking it’s easier to spread, but it’s all the flavor without the chunks.

So here is the difference: Just scooping what I needed from the jar and leveling it yielded 5.2 oz of flour. Sifting it, and then spooning it into a measuring cup, and leveling it yielded 4.1 oz.

That is a big difference! When you are baking in an already dry environment, you don’t need more flour to dry it out and weigh it down more.

You know what? My end result was well worth the effort; it turned out just the way it should have, and served a reminder to never cut corners. I hope you will try this technique to achieve just the results you want, too!

Sacher Torte



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