One thing I have wanted to do for a while is to take the time to actually know things. I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I truly feel that a lot of people rely on word of mouth for information these days and don’t find the true answers for them selves (unless you are still in school, in which case, good on you for doing your homework).
I love random facts and information, so I will be delving into the things I have always wanted to know and reporting back here from time to time with fun little quips (totally looked quip up to make sure I had it spelled/used it correctly [correct word meaning is heavily undervalued] and a quip is a clever, or witty remark or comment, I feel it woks well).
Today, while making biscuits for breakfast, I wondered: What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder and what would happen if I used one and not the other?
Now, I remember learning about these things in science class and home ec (Home ec being when my mom had me bake cookies for a childhood function… oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned yet… I was home schooled, shocking I know). But I wanted to know why they affect baked goods in the way that they do and what is the proper usage for each.
Both ingredients are leavening agents, meaning when added to a baked good they make things rise by producing carbon dioxide. However, they work in different ways.
Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, so when combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient there is a chemical reaction that causes carbon dioxide to form from the heat of the oven, causing your decadent treats to rise. It needs the acid to also counter act its naturally bitter taste.
Baking powder on the other hand is a combination of baking soda plus cream of tarter (giving it the acidic base that it needs to form the chemical reaction) and a drying ingredient. The base already being in the powder allows for a more neutral taste.
The reason some recipes require baking soda and others baking powder is determined by what other ingredients are already in your mix. Baking soda is usually found in cookies, while baking powder is a better suited ingredient for cakes and biscuits.
Note: You can use baking powder in place of baking soda (*because it contains baking soda) but YOU CAN NOT use baking soda to replace baking powder (it lacks the acidity to make larger heavier baked goods rise).
Now I realize this may not be the most mind bending of facts, but I found it entirely fascinating. Not to mention I now know why that cake I made for some obscure party as a child fell entirely flat. I hope these facts spare you that embarrassment.
*Make your own baking powder by combining 2 parts cream of tarter to 1 part baking soda.