Baking Soda / Baking Powder

Baking Soda / Baking PowderHow To Know Which One To Use and How Much

First, acquaint yourself with a quick bread’s structural ingredients (the things that hold it up) and then its “decorative” ingredients (the things that weigh it down).

Structural Ingredients:

  • flour and a liquid
  • eggs

“Decorative” Ingredients:

  • any non-wheat flour or grain
  • sugar
  • fat
  • “optional extras:” raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, cheese, diced fruit, etc.

In a quick bread (or any other baked good), structural ingredients form the skeleton and help it keep its shape. Decorative ingredients give it its personality but weigh it down. If a quick bread doesn’t contain any decorative ingredients, it won’t need much leavening power to lift or expand it. (You don’t need much strength to walk around in summer clothes, but you do need lots of muscle to wear a suit of armor.) A quick bread that has lots of decorations or “optional extras” needs extra muscle or lifting power too.

When & How To Use Baking Powder

First count the cups of flour your recipe calls for. You want to include at least 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup. If your recipe contains a cup or more of decorative ingredients, add another 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour.

Example: Let’s say your recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and 1 cup of raisins. First you’ll need 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each cup of flour. That makes 3 teaspoons. To help lift those raisins, you’ll want an extra 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour. This makes 1 1/2 teaspoons or 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder altogether.

When & How To Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is used generally when there is an ingredient in a batter that is particularly acidic, such as buttermilk or molasses, anything that can take the place of the acid in the baking powder.

Example: If our recipe contains 3 cups of flour plus 1 cup of raisins and we want to use 1 cup of sweet milk, we blend 4 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder into the flour. If we want to substitute 1 cup of buttermilk for the sweet milk, we’ll blend 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into the flour and use only 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. In other words, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1 cup of buttermilk (or an equivalent) can replace about 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

Here are some other ingredients that will react with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and can replace 2 teaspoons of baking powder. This list is by no means complete but it may give you a sense of what ingredients can be used.

  • 1 cup sour milk
  • 1 cup sweet milk soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup fruit or vegetable sauces or juice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (not Dutch cocoa, which has been “de-acidified”)

Final Note

There is no situation where you must use baking soda, even when you have an acidic ingredient in your dough or batter. Because baking powder contains both baking soda and an acid, it will create carbon dioxide bubbles even when there’s extra acid present, such as the buttermilk.

You can choose to use baking powder completely, If you do, the flavor of the acidic ingredient (buttermilk, etc.) will be slightly more pronounced since there is no baking soda to react with or neutralize it. The texture will also be a bit finer than the coarse or “shaggy” texture that is characteristically caused by the action of baking soda.

You may find you like the flavor and texture of things leavened with baking soda or you may prefer baking powder. Try a recipe both ways. Just remember that you can’t use baking soda in place of baking powder without something acidic to react to it. Without something to neutralize it, it will leave a bitter, salty taste. And always blend either one thoroughly into your dry ingredients first so it will be evenly distributed throughout the dough or batter.


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