I think it’s time to dust off the bread machine. It’s been sitting in a corner of the kitchen in a sorry state of neglect for at least a year or maybe two. Just like many kitchen machines that are borne of a fad, this one sits in abandonment after that first rush of owning and using it wore off. So, I will pull this clunky thing out from under, extricating it from its early retirement.
The only thing is, breaking out the bread machine now, as we head into the warmer weather, doesn’t seem to make much sense. A cold wintry day would actually inspire bread baking a bit more than the fresh spring weather. So instead of being in sync with the calendar, I decide to be conscientious about the environment. It just doesn’t seem right to drive an incredible distance to the nearest Costco for a loaf of bread. Not just any bread, but the wholesome, Alpine Valley brand organic bread that I usually buy.
So, I figured that if I’m going to be making my own bread, the next thing to do was get the proper tool for this undertaking–a flour sifter. I remember my mother used one, it had a ball-tipped handle that seemed to have a character all its own, it almost beckoned you to turn its crank, much like the one below:
Much like this one, bit with a red knob
Turning that handle was so satisfying! The picture itself conjures up all kinds of images and sensations, including the warmth and smell of home-baked goods that we all long for. But I guess that cozy feeling might diminish when you decide to use a cold and robotic looking machine to knead and bake the bread.
So, off I went to the nearest Bed, Bath, and Beyond store to search out the flour sifter I thought I needed. They conveniently display all their gadgets on two giant, mile-high walls, so you have to actually step back to look at everything, as if you were in a museum eyeing a Modern Master in order to see all the merchandise.
I did that three times. Surprisingly, in that time, no clerk came by to inquire if I needed help— but then again, if I was watching someone stare at kitchen gadgets for so long I wouldn’t have been inspired to walk over either.
But, there was no sifter in sight. At the next opportunity, I stopped at my go-to place for all kinds of spoons, measuring cups, bowls, and other things you didn’t know you need….the Dollar Store. I searched the one very long wall that displayed every kind of knick-knack on pegs and bins below, going back and forth just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. No sifter.
Okay, so you might be saying that the Dollar Store might have been a stretch for looking for such a serious cooking item like a sifter. But how about a supermarket? That would seem like a good bet, right? After all, it’s the place where you actually buy the food, so wouldn’t they sell stuff that you can use to prepare the food?
(By the way, this search took place over several weeks, and I was getting perilously close to coming to the end of the only loaf I had of that organic bread). My usual travels take me to a few different supermarkets (I wish it didn’t) because one place doesn’t have everything I need. I covered a lot of ground, without coming up with one place that stocked a sifter. This was getting ridiculous.
Not one supermarket, in their aisles of kitchen tools, had a flour sifter, which is why I headed over to Target. Surely Target would stock such a thing. There, I did the ‘gadget gaze’ again, and walked the up and down the aisle and back and forth several times in disbelief as there was no flour sifter in sight. Resigning myself to the idea that I WAS GOING TO BUY A FLOUR SIFTER and not have to hunt this thing down any further, I searched for a store clerk of a certain age (listen to the reason first without judgment please) who would be familiar with this type of thing to tell me if she had ever seen one in the store.
(Feeling guilty about this and to make sure that I wasn’t making any gender/age judgments, I asked a young, male clerk if he knew what a flour sifter was. Shaking his head, he asked if I wanted him to contact someone in gardening).
The woman I asked knew exactly what I was talking about, and proceeded to meticulously check the gadget aisle with me. Aha, she spotted a label for a flour sifter perched on top of an empty rack so she scanned the label to see if the store had any. Success! There was one left, and after some rummaging, she spotted one hiding behind some cutting boards on a shelf below. But alas, pictured at right is the sifter that she found,
which is not exactly what I had in mind. With this gadget, you put the ingredients inside, and just shake it up a bit to get rid of lumps as the sifted portion falls through the bottom.
She agreed that this wasn’t the type I was searching for and suggested that I try specialty craft stores that sell baking equipment. Wow, who knew that this was such a unique item? Specialty stores? For a common flour sifter? Is no one baking anymore? Has the convenience of ready-made foods taken over entire food categories? Is anyone actually using their bread machines?
I did not want to venture into craft stores, because from my memory, those stores focused on chocolate making and not bread or cake-making, plus I really didn’t want to spend even more time checking those out.
Where did I eventually find what I needed? Wal-Mart. Their shelves are filled with all sorts of things that obsessed cooks would need. Here’s what I bought:
Now tell me, is this not the shiniest, most beckoning kind of flour sifter you’ve seen? It has plenty of room (5 cup capacity!), is easier to operate than the crank type, and cost less than $7.
So, what did the Target saleswoman’s advice and the result of my search tell me? That if you plan on baking, you’re either on two ends of the economic spectrum.
I’m sure that if I sauntered into Williams-Sonoma, or ordered from an online specialty catalog, I would most likely have found what I was looking for, but at a hefty price.
So, the shiny new sifter sits perched on a shelf, waiting for me to dust it up with flour for my next round of baking.
Post script: Sad, but true. One of the first recipes I decided to try in the bread machine was for focaccia bread. In reading the bread machine instructions closely, it says, right in the first few pages “it is not recommended to use a flour sifter for any of the following recipes….”. So, I guess I will need to bake cookies.