Is there an answer to this? If my recipe calls for 2 cups of flour and then I sift it, I have well over two cups. Do I use it all or just take out the two cups after sifting?--Name Obscured
In theory, the answer is hidden in the wording of the recipe. If it says "2 cups sifted flour", then what is needed is two cups of flour measured after it has been sifted. If, on the other hand, the recipe calls for "2 cups flour, sifted", then you are supposed to measure out two cup of flour, sift it and then use all of the sifted flour, regardless of how much you end up with. If the recipe just calls for two cups of flour and then in the instructions that follow it says to sift it, then this can be taken as being the same as "2 cups flour, sifted."
Of course, this assumes that the author of the recipe knows the above convention and sticks to it. Nowadays, especially with large numbers of recipes being posted to the internet without the benefit of professional publishers and editors, it is hard to know just how reliable or precise a recipe really is.
The problem with the second method above (i.e. 2 cups flour, sifted) is that flour settles over time and the amount of flour in a cup can vary tremendously. A cup of sifted flour may weigh 20% - 25% less than a cup of flour that has settled. This difference can significantly affect the results, making breads and cakes more dense (see Sifting Flour). The best bet for accuracy in recipe creation is to use flour that is measured after sifting.
Some recipes now use a simpler scoop-and-level instruction. If you encounter this type of instruction, stir the flour in its container to aerate and lift it and then scoop out the required amount, getting a heaping measure. Level it off with the back of a knife or other straight edge. The measuring cup should not be tapped or shaken as that will make the flour settle again. This method results in something close to sifted flour in the amount.