When I was pulling out the ingredients for my low carb Fallout Mutfruit Sweetrolls, I originally had both baking soda and baking powder out. I sometimes have trouble remembering which one is better in my baking, so I had pulled both out of my cabinet of curiosities, a.k.a. my spices and baking needs cabinet, until I could remember.
This got me to thinking that others may have trouble remembering too, or maybe some people don’t even know there is a difference when baking! If you find yourself confused between the two I hope this post helps.
First, both are leaveners. This means they make baked goods rise, assisting in getting that light, airy, or fluffy feeling to cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. However, though both can be used to leaven baked goods, they are not interchangeable (at least not without some additional baking tricks).
Baking soda is actually just one ingredient, sodium bicarbonate, and can be used for many many different uses. I might do a post about some of those uses at a later date; but for today, I’m just going to focus on baking. Baking soda is a base, meaning you need to add another ingredient to make it active – in this case acting as the leavening agent in baked goods. An acid like vinegar, lemon juice, or buttermilk are the most common ingredients used to cause the chemical reaction in a recipe, activating the baking soda, producing CO2 and the light airy results bakers strive for in their goods. Other ingredients that can be used are yogurt, cream of tartar, cocoa powder (natural, not dutch processed), and cocoa powder.
There are two rules of thumb when using baking soda. A little goes a long way, and the acidic ingredient is a must. Have you ever eaten a baked product that had a metallic, soapy, or chemical taste to it? It either had too much baking soda in it, or the acidic component wasn’t added.
The general measurement for using baking soda in a recipe is 1/4 tsp of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.
Here’s something many people don’t know… baking powder contains baking soda. Baking powder is basically baking soda with the necessary acid already added (usually cream of tartar or cornstarch). This way you don’t need an additional acid in your baking in order to activate the leavening in your baked goods. Baking powder is good to use in a recipe that doesn’t have an acidic component in it, like sugar cookies or homemade biscuits.
Baking powder is also usually double acting, meaning it has a two part leavening process. The first occurs when the baking powder is added to a wet ingredient. This is why many recipes have you mix the wet and dry ingredients separately, and then combine the two right before baking. The second process occurs during baking, as heat activates the CO2 release.
The general measurement for baking powder in a recipe is 1 tsp per 1 cup of flour.
It’s also important to check the expiration dates before using either product, especially if they have been sitting in your pantry for a few months. The leavening reaction can be greatly diminished if the baking powder/soda is expired. If I know I’m going to be baking something really important, or doing a lot of baking (like the baking freak I turn into around Christmas), I always check the expiration dates and buy new ones if needed.
So now you have the answer to that burning question inside you: should I use baking powder or baking soda for this delicious baked product I’m about to make? Use this newfound knowledge wisely fellow bakers. May it assist you in your culinary adventures.
Please don’t mind the mess.
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