Baking powder and baking soda are two of the most important ingredients on the baker’s shelf.
The fact that they serve a similar purpose, and overlap in their composition, can be confusing. While both are used to generate rise in baked goods, they work in slightly different ways with different ingredients. Substituting one for the other, without accounting for those differences, can prove disastrous. Here’s what you need to know about these pantry staples?
Baking powder is an all-in-one leavener, meaning it includes baking soda and the “exact amount of acid to use up all the soda.
Baking powder also includes a hefty amount of cornstarch, this helps absorb moisture to stave off premature reactions, as some of the acids in baking powder are activated in the presence of liquid.
Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. It is alkaline, which means it has a pH above the neutral 7 and reacts with acidic ingredients.
The difference between these two is that baking soda contains just one ingredient; sodium bicarbonate, while baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate.
How they work: Both leaveners work when they are broken down and release carbon dioxide. That gas is what contributes to the rise of baked goods. “Neither chemical leaveners nor steam create a single new bubble. They only enlarge bubbles that already exist in the dough. That means that adding them to your dough or batter won’t automatically make them rise. You must still pay attention to the mixing method in a recipe, such as creaming butter and sugar, to create the air bubbles that the leaveners will inflate. Baking soda will begin acting immediately in the presence of an acid, which means you need to act quickly with recipes that rely on it alone.
Are they interchangeable? In a word, no. Because baking soda needs an acid with which to react and baking powder already contains it, they can’t be used in place of each other, at least not without making other adjustments to the recipe.
Do you know that aside from baking, baking soda has a variety of additional household uses and health benefits? Leave a comment and I”ll share in my next post.