Your family cookbook must be riddled with family recipes calling for some form of leavening agent, which makes baked goods expand and rise. My family cookbook has lots of recipes for baking powder and baking soda. I’ve always been fascinated by the difference in results when one ingredient is substituted for another.
I’ve had many cookie recipes made with baking powder come out wonderfully puffed up, and the same recipes puff up then flatten out when made with baking soda. There are rules to using both, as interchangeable as they seem. They are not, and here’s why:
Baking Powder = Most of us are familiar with baking powder in the red can as a key ingredient in many recipes for biscuits. Baking powder is a combination of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), cream of tartar, and a starch. Moisture is necessary to activate the rising process of baking powder in baked goods. Single-acting baking powder recipes should be baked immediately, while double-acting baking powder recipes can stand awhile before baking. Double-acting baking powder recipes rise the most while baking.
Baking Soda = The innocuous yellow box of baking soda freshening your refrigerator is another leavening agent, and is the key ingredient in the above-mentioned baking powder. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, which produces a chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide bubbles when combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk. The bubbles, in turn, cause baked goods to rise. Family recipes made with baking soda typically need to be baked right away (or they may fall flat).
In my estimation, baking soda is the all around winner in leavening agents, because it is more versatile in the kitchen than baking powder. There are many other ways to use the more elemental baking soda than baking powder. Here are my Top 5 Uses for Baking Soda Besides Baking:
Top 5 Uses for Baking Soda Besides Baking
1. When you don’t have baking powder, make it by mixing 1 part baking soda with 2 parts cream of tartar.
2. Scrub pesticide residue and waxy finishes off fruits and vegetables by using baking soda sprinkled on a sponge, or by soaking them in a baking soda solution.
3. Add baking soda to an overnight soak of dried beans to help remove the flatulence factor during cooking.
4. Make a Gatorade-type sports drink by mixing baking soda, boiled water, salt, and Kool-Aid.
5. Make fluffier omelets by adding a pinch of baking soda while whipping 3 eggs in a bowl. The moisture activates the carbon bubbles and the lightweight eggs expand. Great for impressing new in-laws!
I also like to brush my teeth with baking soda, but that’s not within the scope of this column. Otherwise, we’d have to call it my ”Top 6 Uses for Baking Soda Besides Baking.”