Baking Powder 101

A few tips about Baking Powder ~ 1. How to make your own, 2. The differences between Baking Powder & Baking Soda, and 3. How they work & what they are used for.

At first, this may sound a bit technical, but it is very basic and will help you understand the role of baking soda/baking powder in your baking. You’ll learn something & You’ll feel smarter!!

You can make your own if you have: baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch. How? To make 1 tsp. baking powder whisk together 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (you can use the cream of tartar to make playdough). If you are using it immediately, you can omit the 1/4 tsp. cornstarch, but I like adding it in so that the ratio remains 1 t0 1:  ie, replacing 1 tsp. baking powder w/ 1 tsp. equivalent ingredients. (as opposed to replacing 1 tsp. baking powder with only 3/4 tsp. baking soda/cream of tartar mixture).

Most baking powder that you find at your typical grocery store includes “aluminum”. From what I’ve read, the “aluminum” shouldn’t pose a health risk, but why eat aluminum if you don’t have too — and — mostly, who wants to eat aluminum flavored baked goods?? Not, me!  The picture above show Rumford brand “premium Aluminum-Free” Baking Powder. It’s a smaller can, 4 oz. versus typical 8 oz. and I purchased it at Trader Joes. It comes with a “dark” lid to prevent exposure to light and pro-long freshness & potency. I like the smaller can, because it’s easier to store and it also allows me to keep my baking powder fresh (ie, I use it twice as quickly as the 8 oz can and thus, purchase a fresh can sooner). Sometimes, bulk is not always better.

Baking powder is best/more potent when it’s fresh. I’m assuming you know that it acts as a “rising agent”** as does “baking soda”. The difference between the two: “baking soda” relies on wet acids in the recipe to produce the carbon dioxide gas (ie, rising agent) while “baking soda” contains it’s own dry acid (cream of tartar) which is prevented from reacting with the ” baking soda” by the “cornstarch” which absorbs moisture – when “baking powder becomes wet, the acid (cream of tartar) comes into contact with the baking soda, and produces carbon dioxide (the rising agent).

In case you are wondering why “baking powder” is labeled as double acting – most baking powders that you purchase at the store contain two kinds of acids. The one I described above which produces carbon dioxide at room temperature and the other which reacts to heat (ie, the oven).

Lastly ~ you want to be very careful when measuring baking powder or soda is — too little you won’t get the desired rise and too much will – affect taste (tinny/acidic tasting), make the finished product dense, coarse crumbed cake, cookie or muffin – blech!!

**Chemical leaveners react with acids to produce carbon dioxide, the gas that causes the baked goods to rise.

Don’t you feel smart now?!


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