Let’s discuss about one of the most confusing subjects in the entire realm of baking. Something that has confused the mind of nearly everyone on earth. Or at least those who love baking. What is the difference between baking powder and baking soda? Are they the same? Can I substitute one for the other without changing anything else?
This article speaks about how baking powder and baking soda are not the same. Baking powder and baking soda are both leaveners, however they are chemically different.
What is Baking Soda?
Aka bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate.
Stating with baking soda as it is the most confusing. First to understand, baking soda is a BASE. A basic science experiment conducted in school. Mix baking soda with vinegar and you would be able to see an eruption of bubbles. When you mix baking soda (BASE) with vinegar (ACID) you get a chemical reaction (eruption of bubbles). A product of this reaction is carbon dioxide CO2.
The same exact reaction happens in our cookies, cakes, breads, etc. When a recipe calls for baking soda (BASE), it usually calls for some type of ACID. Like buttermilk, brown sugar, yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar, molasses, applesauce, natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process) or honey. You need one of these ACID in the recipe to react with the baking soda, which in turn creates carbon dioxide and allows your product to rise.
Baking soda is strong. In fact, it is about 3-4x stronger than baking powder. More baking soda in a recipe doesn’t necessarily means more lift. You should use just enough to react with the amount of acid in the recipe. Too much baking soda and not enough acid means there will be leftover baking soda in the recipe which will create a metallic, soapy taste in your baked goods.
Good rule of thumb: Usually around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour in a recipe. Baking soda can leaven a baked good when exposed to heat. However, unless it is neutralized with an acid, your finished product will likely have a metallic taste as mentioned earlier.
What is Baking Powder?
Baking powder contains baking soda. It is a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar (a dry acid), and sometimes corn-starch. These days, most baking powder sold is double acting. This means that the first leavening occurs when baking powder gets wet– like when you combine the dry and wet ingredients in the recipe. (This is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later, because the baking powder has already been activated.) The second leavening occurs when the baking powder is heated.
Since baking powder already contains an acid to neutralize its baking soda, it is most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient. However, this isn’t always the case. You can still use baking powder as the leavening agent in recipes calling for an acidic ingredient. Buttermilk (acid) can be used instead of regular milk for added moisture and a little tang also you may substitute a little brown sugar (acid) for granulated sugar; again, for added moisture.
Good rule of thumb: Usually around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour is used in a recipe.