Baking Soda Vs. Baking Powder
Come the holidays, the amount of flour, sugar and spices coming out of kitchens across the country increases astronomically. Before you scoop bench flour to roll out your great grandmother’s cinnamon roll recipe, let’s talk about the difference between two ingredients that you will come across throughout your holiday baking.
First of all, both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents. What that means, is that they both help a batter or dough rise during baking. Think cakes and cookies.
- “Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda (alkali) is about four times as strong as baking powder. It is used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient (e.g. vinegar, citrus juice, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, cocoa, honey, molasses (also brown sugar), fruits and maple syrup).
- Baking soda starts to react and release carbon dioxide gas as soon as it is added to the batter and moistened. Make sure to bake the batter immediately.
- Baking soda has an indefinite shelf life if stored in a sealed container in a cool dry place. Too much baking soda will result in a soapy taste with a coarse, open crumb. Baking soda causes reddening of cocoa powder when baked, hence the name Devil's Food Cake.”
- “Baking powder consists of baking soda, one or more acid salts (cream of tartar and sodium aluminum sulfate) plus cornstarch to absorb any moisture so a reaction does not take place until a liquid is added to the batter.
- Most baking powder used today is double-acting which means it reacts to liquid and heat and happens in two stages.
- The first reaction takes place when you add the baking powder to the batter and it is moistened. One of the acid salts reacts with the baking soda and produces carbon dioxide gas.
- The second reaction takes place when the batter is placed in the oven. The gas cells expand causing the batter to rise.
- Because of the two stages, baking of the batter can be delayed for about 15-20 minutes without it losing its leavening power.
- Too much baking powder can cause the batter to be bitter tasting. It can also cause the batter to rise rapidly and then collapse. (i.e. The air bubbles in the batter grow too large and break causing the batter to fall.) Cakes will have a coarse, fragile crumb with a fallen center. Too little baking powder results in a tough cake that has poor volume and a compact crumb.”
I couldn’t have said that better myself. So, in other words, before you think one could be swapped for the other, or eyeballing is “good enough,” think again. Both are specific in their use and should be used accordingly. And, if you are testing your own recipe and the end result isn’t coming out as you would like, maybe this will help steer you in the right direction.
Regardless, baking should be fun, taken with stride and most importantly, enjoyed with family and friends. Now with that, gather your friends and family around the kitchen, roll up your sleeve, dust your boards, and start baking those cinnamon rolls!!
Cheers to starting a new tradition around the table together!
Founder and true believer in the power of bringing people around The Table Together!