The Real Difference Between Baking Soda And Baking Powder


Everyone who bakes has been there, reading
a recipe that calls for either baking soda or baking powder, then reaching for the wrong
one. Or — worse! — realizing you’re out of
the one that it calls for. Does it really matter? Absolutely. Let’s take a look at exactly what’s inside
these containers, starting with baking soda. That’s actually straight sodium bicarbonate,
and here’s a bit of a flashback to grade school science for you. Baking soda is a base, and that means it reacts
when it comes in contact with an acid. When you’re baking, that can be in the form
of a liquid — typically something like lemon, buttermilk, or coffee — or a solid, like
brown sugar. Once the two are mixed, they’ll form carbon
dioxide bubbles and raise the pH of your dough. What does that mean? Basically, those bubbles make your baked goods
rise, and increased pH weakens the gluten to make your final product more tender. Now, baking powder. That’s a little different, because that’s
actually baking soda plus some other ingredients — usually, says Bob’s Red Mill, cornstarch
and cream of tartar. It contains two acids, which can vary, and
it’s only when a liquid is introduced that the first acid reacts with the base. Then, once it’s exposed to heat, the second
reaction happens. But wait, you’re saying, If it contains both
an acid and a base, wouldn’t it automatically react? No, and Healthline says that’s where the cornstarch
comes in. That acts to keep the reaction from happening
until you want it to. See, it’s pretty simple. If you’ve ever wondered why a recipe calls
for one and not the other — or for both — you’re not alone. Since baking soda requires an acid to activate
it, the only time you’re going to see it used is when there’s an acid in the recipe. Makes sense, right? If there’s no acids in the recipe, you’ll
use baking powder, since it already contains everything it needs to work. There’s a little more to it, too. Because baking powder reacts in stages — including
one that’s activated by the presence of heat — it’s going to be used in recipes where
the dough needs to either chill or rise. Think of the cookie dough you put in the fridge
for a bit before baking, or of bread that needs a long time to rise. So, why would you need both? Baking soda isn’t just activated by the presence
of an acid, it also neutralizes it as part of the process. If your recipe contains an acid, it will also
call for a certain amount of baking soda to react with and essentially, in the proper
proportions, they’ll offset each other. But sometimes, that’s not enough to get the
rise you’re looking for. In that case, the recipe will tell you to
add a little baking powder to get the extra kick you need. Because things aren’t complicated enough when
you’re just looking at baking powder and baking soda, you’ll also need to know that yes, there
are different kinds of baking powder, too. Which one you buy makes a big difference. First, let’s take fast-acting baking powder. Here, the reaction is going to happen at room
temperature, so as soon as you mix your ingredients, the magic is going to start to happen. You don’t always want that, though, so that’s
where slow-acting baking powder comes in. There’s a delay on this one, and it’s not
going to start doing its thing until it hits a certain temperature. Then, there’s double-acting baking powder,
which means part is going to happen when you’re still at room temperature, and it’ll continue
while it’s in the oven. If your box of baking powder doesn’t say which
it is, it’s probably double-acting. The other two are mostly used by commercial
and professional bakers, and if you picked up your baking powder at the grocery store,
you’re probably safe in assuming it’s the double-acting stuff. The taste of both baking soda and baking powder
is unmistakable, and in spite of looking very similar and playing the same role in a recipe,
they do impact the flavor and color of the final product in different ways. How it works is another reason a recipe might
call for both. Let’s use lemon cupcakes as our example. Lemon is an acid, so the recipe is going to
call for baking soda to offset some of the acidity and to make those cupcakes rise. But you also want some of that lemon flavor
to stay, and for that to happen, the baking soda can’t use up all of your lemon juice. Add baking powder to the recipe, and you’re
also adding more acid, which means you’ll have more of that lemon flavor left after
the reactions and the rising happens. But, say you’re making lemon pancakes, and
you want not just lemon flavor, but those delicious browned edges, too. If you have too much acid in your recipe,
that browning isn’t going to happen. Baking soda takes away the acid and encourages
the browning. In other words, if you only use baking soda,
your tangy lemon recipes would lose their lemon flavor. If you only used baking powder, you wouldn’t
get that browning reaction. So using both? That’s what will get you to perfection. So, you’re getting ready to bake, and you’re
trying to decide if you wake the dog up now to take her outside before you start, or if
you let her sleep and just step away from what you’re doing mid-recipe. Here’s how you decide. If the recipe calls for baking soda, you’d
better take the dog out before you start. That’s because the reaction that causes your
cake or bread to rise is going to start as soon as you introduce the baking soda to the
liquid, and that means you’ll have to have the oven preheated and get your dough or batter
in as soon as you possibly can. If you wait — and, say, step away to run
the dog outside — all the carbon dioxide bubbles that are going to make your recipe
rise will be gone by the time you get back, and what comes out of the oven will be very,
very flat. On the other hand, if the recipe calls for
just baking powder, you’ll have time to step away and run the pup outside if she needs
to go. That’s because while some of the reaction
of double-acting baking powder does, indeed, happen when you first mix your ingredients,
the majority of the gas doesn’t get released until it’s in the oven. And that means your cake will still rise,
and you won’t have to wake the dog up before you start. “On your marks, get set, bake!” Have you ever paid attention to how much baking
soda or baking powder a recipe calls for? If you haven’t, you might not have realized
that most recipes will only call for a relatively small amount of baking soda. And that’s super important, because according
to Bob’s Red Mill, baking soda is about four times stronger than baking powder. But here’s the thing: If you want more rise,
you can’t just add more baking soda. That’s because baking soda will only react
in the presence of an acid, and good recipes will include just enough baking soda to react
with the right amount of acid. There’s a little bit more to this, too, and
it’s the reason you absolutely shouldn’t increase the amount of baking soda over the amount
the recipe calls for. If you add more baking soda, it’ll run out
of acid to interact with and it’ll remain inert. And that means you’ll just have some leftover
baking soda in your cake or bread, and you’ll be able to taste it. If you’ve ever baked something that’s had
a weird, bitter sort of taste — think of what it would taste like if you licked a bar
of soap that was filled with flakes of aluminum foil — that’s because you had too much baking
soda. And what’s worse than a cake fail? “It’s OK. It probably just meant that I love cake. That I can’t resist it. Heh heh. It’s all good—” And that’s why many recipes follow this rule
of thumb: For each cup of flour, you’ll need a teaspoon of baking powder and only a quarter-teaspoon
of baking soda. Baking really is a science, and in order to
get your cakes, cookies, and croissants to come out perfect every time, following the
recipe to the teaspoon is a must. Uh oh! You’ve already started baking, but you forgot
to do a cursory glance through your cabinets to make sure you have everything you need
and you’re out of either baking powder or baking soda. First, the good news: If you have one, you
can substitute for the other. Let’s say you’re out of baking powder. Since you now know that baking powder is essentially
baking soda with the acid already added, you know you can make your own. It’s easy: Just use 1 teaspoon of baking soda
and add 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar. Presto! And yes, you still use the same exact amount
of your homemade baking powder as you would use of the commercial stuff. If you’re out of baking soda, it gets a little
trickier. There’s baking soda in your baking powder,
so you could use three times the baking powder to replace the baking soda. In other words, use 3 teaspoons to replace
1 teaspoon of baking soda. But now, here’s a bit of bad news: The baking
powder will change the taste of what you’re making, because of the extra ingredients in
it. Depending on what you’re making, it could
ruin an entire recipe. In some cases, you might want to put your
baking on hold and run to the store. You’ll thank yourself later — about the
time dessert rolls around. Baking soda and baking powder are commonly
confused, but isn’t there one other ingredient that does pretty much the same thing? Yes, it’s yeast. So what’s the difference there? It’s all in the reactions. While baking soda and baking powder react
with acids and liquids, respectively, yeast reacts with sugars. It’s also an entirely different process that
happens with yeast, and that’s fermentation. When yeast ferments, it does so very, very
slowly, which is why making bread is such a time-consuming process, and why you need
to let the dough sit for a while before popping it in the oven. That slow process doesn’t work for a lot of
baking projects, which is why yeast isn’t interchangeable with baking soda and baking
powder. There’s another way to look at the differences,
too. When it comes to baking soda and baking powder,
Bob’s Red Mill says the reaction that happens is a chemical one. When it comes to yeast, that’s a biological
reaction. It’s a difference that ends up causing the
same basic result, but you have to admit it’s pretty cool and an excellent fun fact to bring
up at parties over a few cookies or slices of cake. “People do cake…” When you think of baking soda and baking powder,
you probably think of baking. It’s right in the name, after all. But there’s plenty of things you can do with
one of them, and this? This is important, because it can absolutely
help you go a little more natural with your cleaning routine. Baking powder is pretty much only used for
baking. That’s it! You can definitely get away with a small container
kept in your kitchen, but baking soda has so many other uses it’s worth stocking up
on and keeping boxes on hand. Healthline says that baking soda had been
shown to have some interesting effects when taken as a supplement, and it’s been found
to help reduce fatigue, especially when you’re going through some hardcore exercising sessions,
if you’re weight training, or participating in high-energy sports like kickboxing or martial
arts. It’s also been shown to help remove plaque,
reduce heartburn, slow the progression of kidney disease, and even relieve the itchiness
of bug bites when mixed with water and turned into a paste. You can use baking soda as a deodorant, a
mouthwash, to relieve the pain of canker sores, as an air, garbage can, shoe, and refrigerator
freshener, stain remover and laundry whitener, and even as a weed killer. That all makes baking powder look positively
boring by comparison, so if you’re wondering whether or not you should grab that giant
box of baking soda, there’s your answer. Stock up! Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
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