Baking has been around since ancient times. Of course, over the years with new inventions and recipes, baking has under-gone major transformations – from baking over brick stones to baking in gas or electric ovens. The first form of baking was thought to have been as early as 2500 B.C. or even earlier. Baking is just one of the many ways of cooking. Baking, as we know it, is defined as cooking by dry heat in an oven or on heated metal or stones (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/baking). Dry heat is usually obtained through an oven.
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Just as important as it is to find out if baking soda can be substituted, it is important to understand the mixtures of baking soda and baking powder. Let’s look at baking soda, first. Baking soda, in its original state, can be found in mineral deposits all over the world. Baking soda has been used in America since colonial times, but it wasn’t produced in America until 1839. Some common recipes that call for baking soda are different cookie types, breads, pancakes, and many other recipes. Baking soda has several scientific names. The most common name would be sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Sodium bicarbonate has several atoms. It contains one sodium atom, one hydrogen atom, one carbon atom, and three oxygen atoms. Baking soda is a very important part of a recipe. Often times it is referred to as the leavening agent. A leavening agent is a substance that causes substances to rise by releasing gases that produce the finished project with a porous structure. In other words it would be a ‘fast-acting yeast.’ As baking soda is added to the batter (to whatever yummy treat you are making), it releases a gas that allows the batter to immediately start to rise. Baking soda begins to work by letting its gas out as soon as it hits a liquid – which could be a batter or some dough. Most recipes that call for baking soda usually have other acidic ingredients in them that enable the baking soda to work and taste properly. Baking soda helps with the alkaline taste in your food. It keeps it from having a ‘soapy’ taste. Now that we know a bit about baking soda, we can now look into its familiar relative – baking powder.
Baking powder is just as useful as baking soda, but it has a few different powers. Baking powder was first discovered and manufactured in 1843 by a man named Alfred Bird. Along with baking soda, baking powder is found in similar recipes and also in my favorite – scones. Baking powder is composed of several ingredients including cornstarch, cream of tartar, and even baking soda. Like baking soda, baking powder is also a leavening agent. Baking powder is different than baking soda in that it is double-acting. Double-acting simply means it rises or acts as a leavening agent at two different times. The first time it starts to work, like the baking soda, is right when it is added to the batter. The second time would be when it is baking. As it is baking, it continues to let out its gases due to the oven’s heat. Since it is, in a way, rising twice, it gives your final outcome a fluffier and lighter texture. Baking powder is usually added to recipes that don’t have acids as it already contains acids due to the baking soda and cream of tartar. Now that we have learned a little bit about baking soda and baking powder, it will be easier to understand their relationship and how baking soda might or might not be able to be substituted.
Since we know that baking soda is usually used where there are acidic substances in the batter, and baking powder is used where there aren’t any acidic substances, we know that in being able to substitute baking soda we would have to add an acid. In adding an acid, we are, in a way, giving the soda more power, where it can cause the finished baked treat to become lighter and fluffier. This acidic lack is solved by an acid called potassium hydrogen tartrate which is more commonly known as cream of tartar.
Cream of tartar was the original leavening agent used by bakers before we had baking powder and baking soda. Remembering that baking powder is double-acting, we now need to see what makes it rise at the two separate times. As I mentioned earlier, the first release of gas (or rise) would be due to the baking soda, but what would cause the second release? That would be where the cream of tartar comes into play. The cream of tartar reacts when it is released into heat, so when your batter or dough goes into the oven and receives the oven heat, the second release of gas begins. Baking soda reacts when it enters a liquid and cream of tartar reacts when it enters heat. So now that we know what causes baking powder to be double acting, it would make sense to add that one special ingredient that makes it double-acting to the baking soda. This special ingredient would be the heat reactant – cream of tartar. By adding the cream of tartar to the baking soda, it gives it the added acid to rise in heat when placed in the oven. If you were to try to use only baking soda without any extra ingredient in place of baking powder, you would find that it would leave a bitter taste. When you need to substitute baking soda and cream of tartar for baking powder, it is important not to have too much baking soda with your cream of tartar or vice versa.
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In closing, we find that baking soda alone cannot be substituted for baking powder, but with a simple ingredient known as cream of tartar, you can have some baking powder. So next time you’re baking and you find yourself with missing ingredients or without baking powder, don’t break a sweat!! Remember, not only can you substitute applesauce for oil, honey for sugar, but now you know that you can substitute baking soda with a little bit of cream of tartar for the missing baking powder. So finish up with your baking and enjoy your yummy and delicious snack!!
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