We Have to Talk….

by bakelikeacook


It’s not you…it’s them.  The two pranksters above. They are probably a big reason that some people think they can’t bake.  I’d say these two probably account for that fear that baking is so exact and scientific–making people think they can’t bake.  But I say that these two, much like the cast of the Jersey Shore, are just misunderstood : )

So I’m sure we have all had those baking moments when we mistakenly used baking powder for baking soda and vice versa.  Or we just though that since their names were close, we can swap out one for the other.  My friends, in those instances, the only recipe you were following was one for a culinary disaster.  Well here is a remedy that will take care of those situations once and for all:

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information” Gordo Gekko, Wall Street

First of all, kudos to you if you knew that they do both serve the same purpose–but in very different ways.  The final result you are looking for in both is the production of carbon dioxide, which makes baked goods rise.  Baking soda is an alkaline ingredient.  What the heck is that you might say?  Hmmm…someone wasn’t paying attention in chemistry class!!  It just means it has a high pH (greater than 7 and the scale maxes out at 14).  Since it is alkaline, it needs an acid to get the party started for the production of carbon dioxide.  Otherwise, the baking soda will not do anything in your baked goods but leave a nasty, bitter, soapy taste since it has not been utilized.

Baking powder, on the other hand, contains baking soda plus an acid so it is self contained and ready to go.  All it needs is moisture and heat–both of which you achieve when you mix and bake.  Typically you use 4x the volume of baking soda.  That is 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is as strong as 1 teaspoon of baking powder.   The term “double acting” means it reacts some when you get it wet, and the rest when it goes in the oven.  Trust me, its a good thing.

So, when to use which one??  Well that depends on your other ingredients.  Acidic ingredients that are good for baking soda include: sour cream, buttermilk, molasses, orange juice and brown sugar.  Remember baking powder doesn’t need the acidity to react. Now this doesn’t mean that it can’t be used with these ingredients.  Just remember:

Soda needs an “a” to make the word soda.  “a” for acidity.  Sorry, nothing clever for baking powder.  Just remember it’s not baking soda : )

Are you feeling better about leavening?  It’s simple, right?  Now go rent Wall Street and bake a cake.