Does anyone have a neat trick to sift dry ingredients without a sifter or a fine mesh sieve? Thanks!
I use a whisk.
You're going to need one or the other. A whisk does not sift, per se. Only aerates.
I agree, stick to sifting for the best results. A whisk will never give you the same results, also sifting is pretty enjoyable.
Agreed on sometimes there isn't a good substitute for the right equipment. Personally, I prefer a sieve to an actual sifter -- so much more versatile, easier to clean and typically less expensive. I frequently find myself dusting the top of something with a little powdered sugar, and immediately see the clumps that don't go through (and which all the best whisking in the world wouldn't break down). This is particularly an issue if using organic powdered sugar (which I do). My theory is that the organic uses a little tapioca starch (as opposed to cornstarch in the non-organics) to keep it from clumping, and it isn't quite as effective. That said, I'll trade the little bit of clumping (that sieving removes, so not a problem) in an organic/non-GMO product, for smoothness in a non-organic/high likelihood GMO (did you know that 88% of the US corn crop is GMO?) product.
Sieve over sifter for sure - you can keep to the never-having-a-kitchen-utensil-that-serves-only-one-function rule this way, plus I find a sieve less awkward to use.
But in a pinch, a whisk is better than nothing.
The fine mesh sieve!! If you hold it high over the bowl, it also helps to aerate the flour or powdered sugar.
Are you stranded in a vacation house without a sifter? Yikes! A broken window screen from out in the garage will do. Could get messy, though. I often use a whisk, but I'm not a baker.
Ever considered using a scale?
I always use a scale. I'm from the south and AP flour here is soft. So a cup of USDA AP flour is 125 g/cup. While Martha White or Gold Medal is 130g/cup.
You'd think that's small amount but can make a diffrence in baking. (especially "no kneed bread").
Scales are so cheap now, it doesn't make sense not to have them.
I use a strainer (the kind you would use for vegetables or large-shaped pasta) over a bowl. It seems to work fine.
Agree with Sam on the benefits of scaling, but scaling and sifting are two different functions.
Sifting breaks up clumps and aerates the ingredients - especially crucial for fine powders like icing (powdered) sugar, cocoa powder and cake/pastry flour, but basically not at all important for bread flour. It can also help mix two or more ingredients together, such as sifting baking powder with flour.