Baking soda and Baking powder are two of the most well-known and popular chemical leaveners for at home baking. Recipes normally call for one or the other or both to be used. Why?
Chemical leaveners are amazing powerhouses that can make or break your final product. Ever had a flat cake that refused to rise in the oven? You probably forgot the baking powder. Chemical leaveners’ main function is to aerate the dough or batter which makes it rise and provides a light and fluffy end product.
So, which chemical leavener do you use?
Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, reacts with moisture to create carbon dioxide bubbles. This causes the dough or batter to rise when introduced to high temperatures. Baking Soda is most commonly used in cookies.
Fun fact: Baking soda isn’t only used for baking. You can use it as a deodorizer and even brush your teeth with it!
Baking powder has slightly different properties than baking soda and reacts differently too. Baking powder essentially has baking soda in it, plus, cream of tartar and starch. Most baking powders are double-acting; however, some are still single-acting. Those recipes usually call for both baking powder and baking soda to provide the double-acting effect. Baking Powder is most commonly used in cakes and biscuits.
The most important thing to remember is that chemical leaveners need to be activated at the right time. The most common is during mixing and baking, however, there can be activation between mixing and baking. Multiple leaveners can be used to accomplish this.
When dealing with baking soda and baking powder, always follow the recipe. Remember that baking is a science!
- What’s the difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. 2015. Web. http://chemistry.about.com/cs/foodchemistry/f/blbaking.htm
- Dave Krishock, Bakery Science Instructor and Advisor, Kansas State University.