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Friday 2 March 2012

Kitchen Gadgets: the Sieve

It seems like once you start buying sieves, you quickly end up with the quite the collection. You can buy them relatively cheaply from supermarkets, and this one from Sainsbury's, £8, looks fairly sturdy. It has a big lip so it can balance on a bowl happily and its generously scooped shape means you won't send most of the flour or sugar out over the side when it's heaped full. It also has a hook for storage. Simple but useful.

You might be wondering why you need one. Well, my dad (a professional baker) always impressed on me the need to sieve flour in particular, when making cakes. There are a number of reasons. First to get any huge lumps out though that probably doesn't happen as much these days with the way commercial mills process flour. Once upon a time, when storage might not have been great and you might have bought flour in larger quantities than the current 500g or 1kg bags, it was also a good way of avoiding any weevils ending up in your mixture (ewwww). But Dad's main rationale is that it introduces air into the flour for a lighter batter. It's always worked for me.

Choose a larger sieve for flour and a small one for dredging icing sugar like snow over mince pies. If you'd like to invest more and you've got into some serious sieving action, it's time to get your hands on a moulin. These are popular in France and they're great for reducing stocks and soups into a fine puree - it's like a potato ricer for liquids. Use them to make perfectly smooth fruit purees too. This one is £23.99 from Nisbets.

And then purely for retro appeal, you could add this Tala Flour Sifter, £8.11 from Amazon, to your collection. It makes me think of a grandma baking apple pies. But it's mostly for aesthetic appeal - I can't imagine putting vast quantities of  ingredients through this as its trigger action will probably leave you with fairly stiff hands!

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