An introduction to leavening agents:
Nobody likes a dense and flat cake or pastry. Half of what makes a baked good delicious is its texture. The secret behind a soft and fluffy cake or a pastry is the factor of leavening. Chemical agents such as baking powder and baking soda play an important role in the leavening and fermentation processes. But, before heading further, let’s learn a bit about leavening agents.
- A beginner’s guide to leavening agents:
Baking hasn’t always been a piece of cake. It used to be a gruelling task that involved a plethora of ingredients. From meticulously sourcing ingredients to just picking a ready-made batter mix off the store shelf, a lot has changed over the years. But one thing has always remained constant, and that is the role of leavening agents in baking.
A leavening agent, also known as a rising agent, is a substance that reacts with the acidic ingredients in a batter or dough and produces carbon dioxide, which pushes the batter upwards, making the mixture light and soft. Without these incredible agents, one cannot achieve voluminous and fluffy baked goods. Baking soda and baking powder are two essential leavening agents that are commonly used in baking.
But those two aren’t the only leavening agents available. Through years of experimentation, trials and errors, baking experts have discovered a wide range of biological, mechanical, and chemical leaveners. Here’s some of them:
- Different kinds of yeast such as active dry, instant, and fresh.
- Mechanical processes such as whipping egg whites to incorporate air as an agent.
- Steam – these recipes will be baked at a higher temperature for the water to evaporate and form gas.
- Rising to the occasion: Baking soda’s role in fluffy cakes.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring element, generally available in powder form. This alkaline compound reacts with the acidic components in a batter resulting in a foaming action, giving cakes and other baked goods a light and airy texture. It is most used in quick-bake recipes such as ready-made pancake and waffle mixes owing to its fast-acting chemical reaction. Baking soda keeps reacting with heat and hence boosts the rising action when the batter is kept in the oven.
- Now, don’t get your baking ingredients wrong.
Baking Soda VS Baking Powder
Baking soda is alkaline and reacts to an acidic ingredient and a liquid. Once it's activated, it releases CO2 and aids in leavening. Baking soda is typically found in recipes that have an acidic agent like lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, etc.
Whereas baking powder contains both acid and base (sodium bi-carbonate and an acidic ingredient) making it a complete leavening agent. Corn-starch is added as a buffer to prevent the acid and base from reacting with each other within the package. Similarly, to how baking soda reacts with water and an acidic ingredient, the acid in baking powder reacts with sodium bicarbonate and releases carbon dioxide once it’s combined with a liquid. Double acting baking powder is commonly used because the leavening agent is activated twice (in the batter and when it comes in contact with heat)
- Two is always better than one: Using both Baking soda and powder.
Sometimes, the acidic agent in the recipe might be a lot more than the leavening agent present. There may not be balanced to produce enough Co2 for the leavening action. Sometimes, one might need more leavening agents than acidic and that is why both baking soda and powder are used together.
- But some recipes call for just one. Why is that?
When the recipe's acid to base balance is achieved with either baking soda/ baking powder only one of the agents is added. An eggless cake batter may only have baking soda as its leavening agent because the recipe calls for the right amount of its acid counterpart. For example - yoghurt/ buttermilk.
- How does Baking Soda affect the PH of different types of cocoa powder?
Cocoa powder is naturally acidic. Hence, natural cocoa powder reacts well with baking soda because the acid to base balance is achieved.
Dutch process cocoa powder is alkaline and is hence no longer acidic. When the acidic agent is removed, the balance between acid and base is lost. Therefore, Dutch process cocoa powder-based recipes typically contain baking powder as the leavening agent. The batter tastes soapy and metallic when baking soda is added to a recipe that contains Dutch process cocoa powder.
Recipes that call for natural cocoa powder can have both baking powder and baking soda as leavening agents.
- Can I substitute Baking powder with Baking soda?
It is best not to substitute these ingredients in the place of the other. However, if there is a very urgent need to substitute baking powder with baking soda it can be done in a 1:4 ratio. i.e., 1 tsp of baking soda= 4 tsp baking powder. The batter will rise, but the flavour might be compromised.
- Where can you get these leavening agents?
Typically baking powder that contains aluminium reacts to the heat when it goes into the oven and the leavening starts acting. The Select Aisle’s baking powder is aluminium-free, it means that the baking powder will start working once it's been added to the dough. Our aluminium free baking powder doesn't contain aluminium and eliminates the possibility of any unwanted metallic taste. The good news is and baking powder is a common household product and can be found in any supermarket/grocery store. But if you’re looking for premium leavening agents, to make irresistibly fluffy and delicious delights, you can shop for them at our website!
You’re now (almost) an expert baker! So, the next time you bake, make sure you use the right amount of baking soda or any of the other leavening agents to achieve the perfect, pillowy, and moist delicacy.