Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baking Soda, Baking Powder....Huh?

If you enjoy baking cakes, muffins, scones or cookies you have seen recipes asking for baking powder, baking soda or both. But even for non-bakers, recipes like buttermilk pancakes and waffles may also ask for a pinch of one or the other. But what's the difference? Can we use baking powder/baking soda interchangeably? The answers and much more cool facts can be found in the Dec 2009/Jan 2010 issue of Fine Cooking. The article: Baking Soda and Baking Powder by Brian Geiger.

If you have time you should definitely read the actual article, but here is my attempt to recap:

1. Baking Soda needs an acid to activate/create bubbles. Thus, recipes asking solely for baking soda would have either "lemon juice, buttermilk, yogurt, or vinegar" added.

2. Baking Powder has baking soda and "enough acid to cause a balanced reaction" Therefore, it only needs a liquid--whatever liquid, milk, water etc--to activate.

3. Baking Powder Labels: "Fast-acting reacts at room temp." Slow-acting needs a higher temp. Double-acting reacts a bit at room temp and finishes reacting in the oven. "If you find a baking powder that doesn't specify a type you can assume it's the double-acting type."

4. Baking Powder and Baking Soda affect browning as well as rising & achieving lift.

5. In a pinch? Ran out of baking powder? Or, not sure if it expired or lost its fizz? The article provides a very simple remedy:
2 parts cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 1 part cornstarch.
Keep in an airtight jar in the kitchen pantry or somewhere dry and cool for a few months.

This article came at just the right time. A close friend of mine--who somehow thinks I know all the cooking answers--asked me "What's the difference?" Fortunately I was able to answer the question in great detail, and keep my reputation going! OK, okay, I couldn't accept the credit, I actually confessed. Prior to this article I wouldn't have been able to explain. Proves that you learn something new every day, if you don't you weren't looking. This was mine!

No comments: