Soda Spreads, Powder Puffs

Soda Spreads, Powder Puffs

We all strive to keep a pantry well-stocked and organized, at least with the essentials, but I am only human and when left to my own devices everything moves towards entropy. So invariably I run out of this or that, baking powder being one of the regulars. Sometimes it seems like the little Clabber girl just gets up and walks off of her own accord. Some speculate that this erratic behavior in lil’ Clabber may be a sign of early onset dementia brought about by all that exposure to aluminum. Keep your wits about you, buy aluminum free!

Baking Powder Substitute

For one teaspoon of baking powder: combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch. This can be scaled up or down, proportionally


Making a baking powder substitute but unsure if your main ingredient works? Test baking soda by pouring 2 teaspoons vinegar in a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. If the mixture bubbles immediately, your soda is still good for baking. If it makes a paste but no bubbles, it won’t be up to the job.

Perhaps a lack of baking powder is not your problem at all. Mayhap you’re more of an occasional kind of baker, occasionally. Instead, your chemical leavener has been sitting on the top shelf of your cupboard for untold years and you’re unsure if it still works.

To put this question to the test combine 1/2 cup hot water with 1 teaspoon baking powder. If it bubbles, your baking powder is ready to be used. If the reaction falls flat then go forth and seek some of the new stuff. Across the desert lies the promised land, and generally, a can of baking powder can be found in under forty years!

Chemical leaveners are responsible for leavening the majority of the treats we home bakers make for ourselves: waffles, muffins, biscuits, etcetera – all get their rise from baking soda and baking powder (heck, sometimes both!) rather than yeast.

Chemical leaveners, when mixed with an acid, supply the majority of the leavening in our quick breads and cookies by producing carbon dioxide, the gas that causes these baked goods to rise.

Of the two, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is the most common alkaline and can do the job of sole leavener if there is an acid in your recipe to react with. These necessary acids come in the form of buttermilk, fruit juices, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, even cocoa powder if not dutched. However, not only must there be an acid in order for the soda to react but there must be enough of the acid in order to neutralize the baking soda. If the ratio is off you will be left with a soapy, metallic flavor in your baked goods. Colors can also be affected if the mixture is even slightly alkaline. Enhancing browning reactions, turning blueberries green, and chocolate red (as in a devil’s food cake).

Baking powder, unlike its soda counterpart, is a “complete leavener”. That means it contains both an alkaline (baking soda) and an acid (generally monocalcium phosphate) which eliminates any worry about adding your own forms of acid. These two ingredients are thoroughly mixed with a ground starch. The starch prevents the soda and acids from reacting to each other in the presence of moisture. An especially humid day can be enough to incite a premature reaction. Most supermarket baking powders are “double acting” this means that they release an initial amount of gas when they are first introduced to the batter, and then again when the heat from the oven triggers them a second time.

-And now that we’ve covered the science of baking soda/powder here’s a little history: They say necessity is the mother of invention and that couldn’t be truer than with the story of baking powder. Alfred Bird, a British chemist, created the stuff for his wife, a woman with a lot of afflictions. She could eat neither yeast nor eggs and so was virtually cut off from any form of bread that was available in that day. With the discovery of baking powder not only could Mrs. Bird have bread again but so could the British military forces. Bird’s quick acting leavener enabled the military to make bread fast enough to bake while on the march. Keeping their boys in bread continuously. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *