Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Baking powder, which comes in small, sturdy, airtight containers, is an early-nineteenth-century invention that changed the course of American cooking, making the art of baking much more predictable. It is used in making cakes, quick breads, muffins, cookies and the like. It is the mysterious leavening agent that makes them rise.
Old-fashioned single-acting baking powder, technically tartrate or phoshate baking powder,
goes to work as soon as it is mixed with liquid, thus demanding that the batter be baked
Double-acting baking powder, on the other hand, acts twice-both when it is first mixed and
again when the heat of the oven releases the full force of the leavening gases, so there is less
urgency about baking your mixture. Both are equally effective in the long run,
but it is very important to note if you use single-acting baking powder that you must double
the amount called for in the recipes because it is less potent.
There are many that prefer the old-fashioned baking powder, they claim that they can detect
a chemical taste when using double-acting baking powder.
You can make your own baking powder by combining 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2
teaspoon of cream of tarter, this will give you the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of tartrate or
phosphate baking powder. DO NOT store homemade baking powder; it will not keep.
Always store commercial baking powder in its own airtight container. If you have kept the tin
around for many months, it is best that you test it for potency. Simply dissolve 1 teaspoon
in 1/4 cup of hot water; if it doesn't foam and bubble within a few seconds, replace it.
Baking Soda is also a form of leavening, but it has to be mixed with something acid like sour milk,
sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, or citrus juice to produce the gases that make the
batter rise. About 1 teaspoon of baking soda is used for every cup of liquid, but the baking soda
should be mixed with the dry ingredients first. As soon as the batter is mixed it should be
set to bake.
Many recipes call for sour milk as the acid activator. This is fine if your milk is farm fresh, but
in todays world we have pasteurized milk which will spoil before it turns sour.
To "sour" pasteurized milk, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk
and let it stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Or use buttermilk, a good
substitute for sour milk in any bread or cake recipe.