Many people have asked me about the differences between baking soda and baking powder… and in which cases they should use one or the other.
So! Let me tell you!
There are certain ingredients that are used in baking, that add volume. The ingredients that are more commonly used for this are yeast, baking powder and baking soda.
All three of these ingredients work in the same way. Meaning that they add volume by creating small bubbles of carbon dioxide in the mixture, that “push” the dough outward, causing it to expand and rise.
These ingredients may all give the same result but they do it in completely different ways
Yeast is an actual living organism, producing gas from a biological reaction. The “happier” they are the more they will grow… which is what is meant by the term “activate”.
Baking soda and baking powder create a chemical reaction that produces gas bubbles.
I won’t talk about yeast any more in this Diary, since it is a whole topic on its own and deserves to be explained in detail.
I will explain a few things about baking soda and baking powder. As I said they are both chemical substances. Chemical leavening agents…
And if anyone remembers any chemistry from school… an alkaline substance… in this case sodium bicarbonate, needs an acidic substance to “activate” it.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. In recipes, it will react with acidic ingredients such as milk, yogurt, lemon, fruit juices and vinegar.
It can actually even “activate” on its own if it is heated. For instance, it can be used to clear out the drainpipes when combined with hot water.
When the basic properties of baking soda mix with the acidic properties of one of the ingredients in the recipe, it begins working to neutralize the acid, creating air bubbles (carbon dioxide), which is what causes the leavening.
Baking powder is a combination of 2 or more substances. It is sodium bicarbonate and citric acid and possibly some corn starch to keep the other two substances separate.
Baking powder works twice, at two different times.
The first rising occurs when it comes in to contact with water.
The second rising occurs when it is baking in the hot oven.
Comparing Baking Soda and Baking Powder
One of the first things to take notice of as that 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of baking powder do not share the same “power”.
The dough will not rise in the same way, since using 1 teaspoon of baking powder will be like using 1/3 of a teaspoon of baking soda… since baking powder is a combination of baking soda and citric acid, it is weaker.
So if you need to make a recipe that calls for baking soda and you don’t have any… you can substitute it with baking powder, only you have to add 2-3 times more than baking soda!
And of course the exact opposite goes for using baking powder. You can substitute baking soda for baking powder, only you have to use 1/3 of the quantity… plus you need to add a citric ingredient like 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for every 1/3 of a teaspoon of baking soda. If you don’t, the baking soda won’t “work” and your dough or batter will not rise.
There are times when your baked goods did not rise properly.
One of the things that might have happened… is that the baking soda or baking powder didn’t “work” in the right way.
Baking soda is quite “active” and doesn’t cause too many problems. It usually remains active until its expiration date.
Baking powder is not so stable since it is a combined product. It is prone to dampness and needs to be stored properly. It is best to buy small packages and keep an eye on the expiration date.
There are ways to check if both baking soda and baking powder are “active”.
Checking baking soda is simple. If you put 2 teaspoons of baking soda in a small dish and add 1 teaspoon of vinegar, it should fizz and make bubbles. This means it is active.
To check baking powder… Put 4 teaspoons of it in a bowl and add some water. If it froths up, it means that it is active.
To wrap it up…. Baking soda is not the same as baking powder. They may cause the same result but do it in a completely different way, so you cannot substitute one with the other.
In fact, some recipes call for both, just for this reason. They work in different ways while baking.
Another thing to remember is that when you add baking soda to a recipe, you shouldn’t let it sit for too long before baking. This is because it reacts immediately when liquid is added, so if you don’t bake it immediately…. your dessert will not rise!!