Baking soda + baking powder are two essential leavening agents that produce carbon dioxide gas, causing dough and batter to rise. While they have different properties, understanding how to use each one is crucial to achieving great results in your baking. In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the differences between baking soda and baking powder, provide some do’s and don’ts and offer substitutions. Let’s get started!
What is Baking Soda?
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a white powder commonly used as a leavening/rising agent in baking.
The pH of baking soda is approximately 9, which makes it slightly alkaline. When mixed with an acid, such as cream of tartar or vinegar, a chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas (=bubbles), which causes baked goods to rise.
When baking soda is used in a recipe, it should be mixed with the dry ingredients first and then mixed with the wet ingredients just before baking. It’s important to note that baking soda does not react with heat, so it needs to be combined with an acidic ingredient to create the reaction that causes the baked goods to rise.
What is Baking Powder?
Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornflour/starch.
Yep! Baking powder = Baking soda + other ingredients!
It is also a leavening agent used in baking. It is different because it already contains an acid, therefore it doesn’t need any additional acidic ingredients to activate it.
Baking powder has a neutral pH level and can be used in recipes that do not contain any acidic ingredients.
There are two types of baking powder available: single-acting and double-acting baking powder.
- Single-acting baking powder contains only one acid and reacts immediately when it comes into contact with a liquid.
- Double-acting baking powder contains two acids, one that reacts with liquid and the other that reacts with heat. This type of baking powder releases some of the carbon dioxide bubbles immediately and then slowly continues to release them as the baked goods are heated.
Baking powder can be mixed with either dry or wet ingredients, depending on the recipe’s requirements. NOTE: Once mixed with liquid, the baking powder should be baked immediately to avoid losing its leavening power.
When should baking powder or baking soda be used over another?
There are specific requirements when baking powder or baking soda should be used over the other.
Baking Soda is typically used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients such as yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, or brown sugar. The acidic ingredient reacts with the baking soda, causing a reaction, which creates bubbles in the batter or dough. This results in a light and fluffy texture. So, if a recipe requires an acidic ingredient, baking soda should be used.
Baking powder is used in recipes that do not contain any acidic ingredients or have a low acidic ingredient content. Baking powder contains both baking soda and an acidic ingredient, usually cream of tartar. When mixed with a liquid, the baking powder reacts and releases carbon dioxide, creating bubbles in the batter or dough. If a recipe does not have any acidic ingredients, using baking powder is recommended.
why do some recipes use both baking powder and baking soda?
It’s essential to note that some recipes may require both baking soda and baking powder. In this case, the baking soda is used to react with the acidic ingredient, and the baking powder will provide additional lift and fluffiness.
Recipes that include both baking powder and baking soda are usually more acidic for the baking soda to react. It’s important to follow the recipe carefully to ensure the right balance of ingredients and leavening agents for the best results.
Substituting Baking Soda for Baking Powder
In some cases, you may find yourself in need of a substitute for baking powder but have baking soda on hand. In this scenario, you can create a substitute for baking powder by combining baking soda with cream of tartar.
To substitute one teaspoon of baking powder= Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.
Substituting Baking Powder for Baking Soda
If a recipe calls for baking soda, you can use it as a substitute. You need to be aware that baking powder contains additional ingredients like cornstarch, which may affect the recipe’s final outcome.
To substitute 1 teaspoon of baking soda = Use three teaspoons of baking powder.
Note: If the recipe contains acidic ingredients, reducing the quantity of the acidic ingredient may be necessary.
Do’s and Don’ts of using baking powder or baking soda
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when using baking powder or baking soda:
- Measure accurately: It’s crucial to measure baking powder or baking soda accurately. Too much or too little can affect the baked good’s taste and texture.
- Use the right type of leavening agent: Double-acting baking powder should be used in recipes that require a longer baking time, while single-acting baking powder is suitable for recipes that are baked immediately.
- Mix well when dry: Baking powder or baking soda should be mixed well with the other dry ingredients (such as flour) to ensure even distribution.
- Combine with acidic ingredients: To activate the leavening process, baking soda needs to be mixed with acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice or vinegar.
- Bake immediately: Once the leavening agent is mixed with the wet ingredients, the reaction starts immediately. So, it’s essential to bake the batter or dough immediately to avoid losing its leavening power.
- Use old leavening agents: Expired or old baking powder or baking soda can lose its effectiveness, so it’s essential to check the expiration date before using it.
- Over-mix when wet: Overmixing the wet batter or dough can cause the carbon dioxide bubbles to escape, resulting in a dense and flat final product.
- Let the batter sit: Once the leavening agent is combined with the wet ingredients, the reaction starts immediately. So, letting the batter sit for too long can result in a flat and dense final product.
- Substitute one for another without adjusting the recipe: Baking powder and baking soda cannot be substituted for each other in equal amounts as they have different leavening properties. Always follow a recipe’s instructions or use a substitution chart to adjust the amounts accurately.
How to store baking powder and baking soda
Store Baking powder and baking soda in a cool, dry place away from moisture, heat, and light. Make sure to seal the containers tightly after use to prevent them from absorbing moisture from the air. Baking soda will also absorb odours, so store it away from strong-smelling foods.
Other Uses for Baking Soda
These are just a few of the many uses for baking soda beyond baking. With its low cost and versatility, baking soda is a useful and eco-friendly addition to any household.
- Cleaning: Baking soda is an effective and gentle abrasive that can be used to clean a variety of surfaces, including sinks, countertops, and bathroom tiles. It can also be used to remove stains from carpets and upholstery.
- Deodorising: Baking soda is a natural deodoriser that can help to neutralize odours in your home. It can be sprinkled in your trash can, refrigerator, or shoes to keep them smelling fresh.
- Personal care: Baking soda can be used as a natural alternative to deodorant, toothpaste, and even shampoo. It can help to neutralise odours and remove buildup from hair and skin.
- Pest control: Baking soda can be used to control pests such as ants, cockroaches, and mice. Sprinkle baking soda in areas where pests are known to frequent, such as along baseboards or in cracks and crevices.
- Laundry: Baking soda can be added to your laundry to help brighten whites, remove stains, and neutralize odours.
TLDR; Final Thoughts
Baking soda and baking powder are both essential ingredients in baking that serve as leavening agents. While they may appear similar, they have distinct properties and functions that make them suitable for different types of recipes.
Baking soda is used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients and baking powder is used in recipes that do not contain any acidic ingredients or have low acidic ingredients. It’s essential to measure these ingredients accurately and mix them well with the other ingredients to ensure a delicious and fluffy final product.
Frequently Asked Questions
When I made this dish on our live cooking show, some community members asked:
Baking soda can last a very long time if stored properly. However, over time, baking soda can lose its potency and effectiveness.
Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. If the mixture fizzes and bubbles vigorously, your baking soda is still good. If the reaction is weak or non-existent, it is time to replace it.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder with 1/4 cup of hot water.
If the baking powder is fresh, it should immediately start to fizz and bubble, it is still good. If the reaction is weak or non-existent, it is time to replace it.
If you’re still not sure which one you have, you can taste a small amount of the powder. Baking soda has a slightly salty, alkaline taste while baking powder has a slightly bitter taste.
Baking soda and acid: You can substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder with a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Mix everything together and use immediately.
Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and cornflour/starch. Read this article for more info!
Aluminium-free baking powder is a type of baking powder that does not contain aluminium compounds. Traditional baking powder can contain sodium aluminium sulphate or phosphate, which helps stabilise the mixture and prevent it from reacting prematurely.
Yes, baking powder and baking soda are generally considered edible and safe for consumption in small amounts such as baked goods. Be aware, in large amounts of baking soda can be harmful and can cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting.
LET’S PUT THIS KNOWLEDGE TO THE TEST! LET’S GET MAKING!
If you found this useful, have any questions or would like me to cover a specific subject, let me know below in the comments! Happy baking!
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Former operating room Nurse and self-taught home cook + IT Engineer passionate about Approachable, No-Nonsense recipes to help you level up in the kitchen. We create simplified dishes for busy people with easy-to-find ingredients!
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