Kitchen chemistry is an exact and fascinating science. And there’s nowhere it’s more important than in baking. But one of the fundamentals is understanding the uses of different ingredients. The journey begins here.
Baking powder and baking soda are two essential ingredients used in baking. Although they sound and look very similar, they have different properties and uses. Understanding the differences between baking powder and baking soda is crucial to baking, as using the wrong one can lead to undesirable results.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a chemical compound that has been used in baking for over a century. It is an alkaline substance that reacts with an acid to produce carbon dioxide gas. This reaction is what causes baked goods to rise. Baking soda is a pure ingredient and is typically used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar. When baking soda is combined with an acidic ingredient, the two react to produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough or batter to rise.
Baking soda has a strong, bitter taste, and using too much of it can result in a metallic or soapy taste in baked goods. It is also essential to use baking soda immediately after mixing it with the other ingredients, as the reaction between the baking soda and acid begins immediately. If you wait too long, the carbon dioxide gas will escape, and the baked goods will not rise properly.
Baking powder, on the other hand, is a mixture of baking soda and an acid, usually cream of tartar. It also contains starch or another ingredient to absorb moisture and prevent the mixture from reacting prematurely. Baking powder is a versatile ingredient that can be used in recipes that do not contain acidic ingredients, as it already contains an acidic ingredient. When baking powder is added to a recipe, the acidic ingredient reacts with the baking soda in the mixture, producing carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough or batter to rise.
There are two types of baking powder: single-acting and double-acting. Single-acting baking powder only reacts once, when it is mixed with liquid and must be baked immediately after mixing. Double-acting baking powder reacts twice, once when it is mixed with liquid and again when it is heated. This means that baked goods made with double-acting baking powder will rise in the oven, rather than just when they are mixed.
How To Use Them
Baking soda and baking powder are used for different purposes in baking. Baking soda is typically used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients, such as buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar. It is commonly used in recipes for quick breads, such as banana bread or zucchini bread, as well as in recipes for cookies and cakes.
Baking powder, on the other hand, is used in recipes that do not contain acidic ingredients. It is commonly used in recipes for muffins, biscuits, and pancakes, as well as in recipes for cakes and cookies.
It is important to note that baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable. Using the wrong one can result in undesirable results. For example, using baking soda in a recipe that calls for baking powder can result in a bitter taste, while using baking powder in a recipe that calls for baking soda can result in a lack of rise.