Baking Powder: Tracing Culinary Legacy Of This Ingredient

Search cooking or baking tips on YouTube, and you will witness several videos featuring baking powder as the star ingredient. Whether you want the dough to rise or prefer to eat soft and spongy dhokla, baking powder is the solution to everything. Though baking soda is the stronger cleaning agent, many people use baking powder as a replacement to clean mot-so-stubborn stains.

Video credit: Bake With Shivesh/ YouTube

You can study chemistry to understand how it reacts with food, why this ingredient is found in every kitchen and why people around the world use it in almost every cuisine. It might not be a star ingredient in recipes, but it sure is a crucial one when it comes to baking or cooking savouries. To understand how baking powder became a star in households around the world, this article traces its roots in the culinary realms and defines its future in the world of cooking.

Baking Powder’s Culinary Past

In the ancient era, people used yeast or fermentation methods to get a rise in the dough. However, these processes are time-consuming. If you ever fermented idli-dosa batter, you know that it requires a lot of time to achieve the rise that will make the fluffiest idli and crispiest dosa. 

In 1843, the world was introduced to modern-day baking powder by Alfred Bird, a British chemist. It is a mixture of baking soda and acid that gets activated when it comes in contact with moisture or heat. Thus, the process of fermentation or rise in dough was simplified with this one ingredient in the 19th century. 

Baking Powder’s Use In The Present

In the present day, baking powder has modified the culinary landscape as it swept its way into every kitchen. Many seasoned chefs and bakers now use it for other tasks beyond achieving rise in a dough or batter. It is a culinary stabiliser that helps baked goods to hold structure and adds a bit of texture to each item.

It is among the most crucial additions when it comes to gluten-free baking. Since maida or wheat is avoided in such recipes, it can be difficult to bake goods with similar flaky texture and softness without using baking powder. It has also helped vegan and vegetarian people to enjoy baked goods and many other delicacies without using eggs. 

Baking Powder’s Use In Future

Baking powder has brought many evolutions in the realm of cooking and baking. Many seasoned chefs say that cooking is nothing but chemistry and science. Hence, they continue to experiment with baking powder along with other ingredients. New recipes keep coming up that are using baking powder in more ways than for the purpose it was developed. 

How Baking Powder Works?

To understand the science behind how baking powder works, you need to understand how it reacts with food. It contains an acid (cream of tartar), baking soda (base), and a starchy ingredient that prevents the base and acid from reacting before coming in contact with moisture or heat.

When a mixture containing baking soda is exposed to heat or water, the acid and base in it react and release carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in the molecules of the flour or ingredients in a batter. This causes the dough or batter to increase in volume. Hence, you have fluffy and airy light idli, dhokla, cake, pastry, and cupcake.