Can you use one instead of the other? Find out Now.
Welcome back to another installment of Baking Basics, here at Gurgaon Bakers. In this series, we give you insights and tips to get your basics right, so that you can go ahead and earn your mastery in baking.
In today’s article, we’re discussing one of the most mind-boggling subjects in baking. We’re delving into the pressing question that arises in all newbie bakers, “Baking Soda or Baking Powder: Are they the same? Will it affect your recipe, if you substitute one for another?
To cut a long story short: Baking Powder and Baking Soda are NOT the Same.
While both are leavening agents used in baking, they serve different purposes and have unrelated chemical structures. So apart from the naming misnomers, they aren’t interchangeable.
Now, that we’ve established the basics, it’s time to dig in. Don’t be afraid of the chemical terms peppered throughout this article. After baking is an exact science and as a good scientist, it’s essential to know your arsenal well.
What is Baking Soda?
The chemical name for baking soda is sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda.
Don’t be intimidated by the science talk. We promise you that we’ll keep it simple, without going all out geeky on you 😉
Baking soda is a BASE. We’re pretty sure that you would have done the “Erupting Volcano” experiment way back in middle school? Here’s a YouTube video to refresh your memory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw8bkc-nR9U.
In this experiment, you mix baking soda with vinegar, which results in an eruption of bubbles that looked like a volcano eruption to your childhood self. What you’re doing here is mixing a base (baking soda) with an acid (vinegar) to trigger a chemical reaction. The product of this experiment is bubbles (carbon-dioxide).
The same exact reaction happens in our baked goodies like cakes, cookies, and breads. Take a closer look at a few of your recipes that use baking soda. You’re sure to find some type of acidic ingredients in the list. Brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, cream of tartar, buttermilk, yogurt, natural cocoa powder (not processed), applesauce, honey, and molasses are all examples of acids.
The acid reacts with the base resulting in the formation of carbon dioxide which causes your baked goodies to rise, resulting in fluffy cakes, breads and other goodies.
How much Baking Soda to Use?
Baking soda is a potent chemical. In fact, it’s around 3-4 times stronger than baking powder. Just because you add more baking soda, it doesn’t mean that your goodies will achieve a higher rise. Always ensure that you use “Just” the right amount of baking soda.
Too much baking soda without adequate acid leads to unused baking soda that is left in your baked goodie. This unused baking soda has a metallic, soapy taste that spoils the overall flavour of your cakes and bread.
A Rule of Thumb: Use around 1/4th teaspoon baking soda for every cup of flour in your recipe.
What is Baking Powder?
It’s a mixture of cream of tartar (a dry acid), baking powder and cornstarch (optional).
To make it clear, yes baking soda is one of the leading components of baking powder. Most baking powders today are double acting, meaning leavening occurs twice.
First, when the baking powder gets wet (mostly when you mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients). This is why some recipes don’t allow you to prepare batter ahead of time because the baking powder is activated and you can’t leave it to rest.
The second leavening occurs when the baking powder is heated. That is when you place the batter in the oven.
Since baking powder comes with an inbuilt acid to neutralise the baking soda, it’s mostly used in recipes that don’t have an additional acidic substance. Take the example of your favourite sugar cookie recipe. That doesn’t mean you can’t use baking powder in recipes that have acidic ingredients.
A bit confusing, no worries, we help you sort it out!
A Rule of Thumb: Use around one teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of flour in the recipe.
We can hear you asking, “Why do few recipes use both?”
We’re pretty sure that you would have come across some recipes that call for both baking soda and baking powder. This is because, though these recipes have some acidic ingredients like brown sugar, yogurt, etc., the carbon dioxide created from the Acid + Baking Soda mixture isn’t sufficient to leave the batter. This is why you need baking powder to give a helping hand by providing the necessary lift.
It’s all about the balance.
Additionally, many bakers use both baking powder and soda in a recipe because these ingredients add to the browning and flavour of your cakes, cookies, and breads.
For instance, take a buttermilk pancake recipe. Here buttermilk is the acidic ingredient. If you use just baking soda, it will neutralise all the buttermilk, thereby removing the tangy flavour from your pancake. When you add baking powder, the baking soda neutralises the acid in the powder, leaving behind some tangy un-neutralised buttermilk.
Thus you get both the flavour and the necessary leavening.
Now, we come to the tricky part,
How to Substitute?
Let’s imagine this scenario. Say you run out of baking powder or baking soda. What do you do? Should you hold off baking till you purchase new supplies or can you smartly substitute one for another?
It’s a bit tricky, and that’s why we don’t recommend beginners to try it out. However, where’s the fun in baking if you can’t experiment?
Roll up your sleeves, while we give you a fail-proof method.
How to use Baking Powder instead of Baking Soda?
- You will have to use nearly three times of baking powder as the amount of baking soda mentioned in the recipe. Remember that this can impact the taste of your baked goodie depending on your recipe.
- For instance, if your recipe calls for one tsp of baking soda, you would ideally add three tsp of baking powder.
What to do when you run out of Baking Powder?
You can make it yourself. All you need is baking soda and cream of tartar.
- Mix one part of baking soda with two parts of cream of tartar. This gives you homemade baking powder.
- Now add the exact amount mentioned in the recipe. For instance, if your recipe calls for two tsp of baking powder, you must add two tsp of homemade baking powder.
- If you have leftover homemade powder, put it in a Ziploc bag and store it for later use.
And, don’t forget – They have Expiry Dates!
Yes, both baking powder and baking soda have expiry dates and lose their effectiveness beyond it. So, if you’re a casual baker and don’t frequently bake, you must always test these ingredients before you use them.
Baking Powder Freshness Test
Take 3 tbsp warm water in a bowl. Add ½ tsp of baking powder and stir it lightly. If the mixture fizzes, then your baking powder is fresh and fit for usage. If you don’t see any fizz, then it’s time to toss the batch out and get a new box.
Baking Soda Freshness Test
Take 3 tbsp of white vinegar in a bowl and add ½ tsp of baking soda. Mix it lightly. You can see bubbles forming rapidly if your soda is fresh. If you don’t get any reaction, pour the batch down the drain and get a new one.
Wrapping it up
That’s all for today! Hope we didn’t bore you with our chemistry speak? After all, baking is chemistry, and it requires tons of trial and error before you can crack it.
If you would like to speed up your baking lessons, you can get in touch with our expert bakers here at Gurgaon Bakers for one-on-one baking classes. Just give us a call @ 124-4379-633 or drop in a line @ email@example.com. We at Gurgaon Bakers offer free home delivery of special customized cakes all over Gurgaon, just Whatsapp us @ +91-98999-88185 to place your orders.