May 26, 2018

If you have been baking for quite some time, maybe you have noticed that there are two ingredients that almost never get scratched off from the list—baking powder and baking soda. For beginners, they might ask themselves, “What are these for?” or “What makes baking powder different from baking soda?” So to answer these basic mind-boggling questions, here is an article that would explain how different they are from each other and how essential their roles are in terms of baking.

What is Baking Soda?

Let’s have a quick time travel back to our grade school years. Do you remember that science experiment with baking soda and vinegar to make an eruption of bubbles--the one about the volcanic model?

Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is a base—if you have remembered well acid and bases back in your science subject—and vinegar is an acid. So when you try to mix them together, they create a chemical reaction which is the bubble eruption. The end product of the process is carbon dioxide. The same thing goes for baking cookies, cakes, and all of your favorite pastries. When you see baking soda on the recipe, expect to see an acid on the list too such as brown sugar, lemon juice, yogurt, applesauce, vinegar, natural cocoa powder, buttermilk, cream of tartar, honey, etc. You need these counterpart acid ingredients to react with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide and allow the pastry to rise. Baking soda is up to 4x stronger than baking powder. However, more baking soda doesn’t necessarily mean a higher lift; it is still about the right amount. Too much is still not good. You might end up excessive baking soda leftovers that would create a metallic soapy taste for your baked products. All baking soda should be neutralized by the right amount acid; or else, you would end up an unwanted product as mentioned above. Let’s not ruin the sweet perfect cookie taste, shall we?

Keep this in mind: for every cup of flour is a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder contains a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch. Yes, baking powder is a two-in-one ingredient. The first leavening occurs when you combine the dry and wet ingredient. When it gets wet, the baking powder becomes activated. Hence, you cannot prepare some batters beforehand because you know that upon the combination of the dry and wet mixtures, it has already been activated.

Keep this in mind: for every cup of flour is 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

Why Some Recipes Need Both?

You might be wondering now that putting both the baking powder and baking soda on the list would be a little redundant as one already contains the other. Both are needed due to the simple fact that one is not enough. The carbon dioxide produced by an acidic ingredient such as yogurt, brown sugar, or lemon and baking soda is not sufficient to leaven the batter’s volume. So to add another lift, you should incorporate baking powder as well.

Now you have an idea why they are so important in the world of baking and what they are for. So the next time you would be seeing a cookie recipe, you won't be surprised if you have seen either or both of them on the list. It is just a matter of balance and knowing the language of baking and bread.

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