Baking Powder vs Baking Soda, Understanding the Difference

baking powder vs baking sodaWhen I was younger I could never figure out the baking powder vs baking soda thing.  When I started baking years ago with my grandmother, she tried to explain to me the difference, but being young, I didn’t understand.  Now that I bake a lot, I try to teach my granddaughters that these two products are needed in your storage and why you need both.  Especially since, they love biscuits.

Both baking soda and baking powder are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked.  The rising agents enlarge the bubbles which are already present in the batter produced through creaming of ingredients.  When a recipe contains both baking powder and baking soda, the baking powder does most of the work.  The baking soda neutralizes the acids in the recipe plus adds tenderness and some leavening.

When using baking powder or baking soda in a recipe, be sure to sift or whisk with other ingredients before adding to the batter to ensure uniformity.

Some recipes call for baking soda, while others call for baking powder.  Which ingredient you use depends on the other ingredients in the recipe.  The ultimate goal is to produce a tasty product with a pleasing texture.  Baking soda being a base will yield a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk.  You’ll find baking soda in cookie recipes.  Baking powder contains both an acid and a base and has a neutral effect in terms of taste.  Recipes that call for baking powder often call for other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk.  Baking powder is a common ingredient in cakes and biscuits.

You can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (you’ll need more baking powder and it may affect the taste), but you can’t use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder.  Baking soda by itself lacks the acidity to make a cake rise.  However, you can make your own baking powder if you have baking soda and cream of tartar. Simply by making two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda.  Leavening Bread with Homemade Baking Powder.

For most purposes other than baking, baking soda has an unlimited shelf life.  To test if it’s still at its maximum effectiveness for baking, put a few drops of an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda. If the soda fixes immediately, it’s still effective.  If the fizzing is delayed, keep the soda for cleaning purposes and buy a new box to use for baking.

Baking powder is more likely to lose its potency over time.  Check it by stirring 1 teaspoon of baking powder into 1/4 cup of water.  If it doesn’t readily bubble, discard the baking powder and buy a fresh can. The containers of baking powder and baking soda contain expiration dates, but, can be kept longer and then tested before using.  Always store these items in their own containers.

Hopefully this article will help some young bakers out there to understand the baking powder vs baking soda issue.  Happy baking.

Preparedness Mom

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3 Responses to Baking Powder vs Baking Soda, Understanding the Difference

  1. ke4sky says:

    For adding to your preps for longer term storage, a product worth looking for is Bakewell Cream. It is still made and can be found on Amazon. When I was a kid this was the leavening of cboice to keep at seasonal camps in the big woods or at fish camps on the coastal islands off the Maine coast.

  2. PAUL says:

    thnx prep .mom, you must have read my mind . really handy info.

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