Big Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder : Do you know the difference between baking soda and baking powder? What most people know, is that these two ingredients are used so that cakes, cookies, muffins, and pies are raised when they are baked. Although in their appearance they are very similar, they do not perform the same functions, so in a recipe, they should not be exchanged.

Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

In the coming paragraphs, you will find the main Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder these two confectionery ingredients. It is important to know their behavior because if we use the wrong ingredient, the final result of our recipes can change in appearance, taste, and color. So get ready, because to understand these ingredients, we will have to go back to chemistry classes.

Baking Soda

Sodium bicarbonate has a high pH, meaning it is a base. This means that when mixed with an acid (low pH) it is subjected to an acid-base reaction, producing carbon dioxide (CO2). When we cook, the CO2 released in that reaction is trapped in the gluten matrix of the dough and causes food, such as cakes and cookies, to “rise”.

If you review several pastry recipes, you will notice that those recipes that only ask for the baking soda, also carry an acidic ingredient to produce CO2. Among the most used acidic ingredients, we can find citrus juices, vinegar, cream of tartar or sour cream. Ideally, the amount of acid present in the recipe is sufficient to neutralize the base, that is, the bicarbonate.

When you are cooking, it is important that you bear in mind that the acid-base reaction is super fast, it is completed in two minutes or so. So if the recipe has baking soda, do not let the mixture sit for a long time. Otherwise, the CO2 will escape, and your cake will not rise well.

Baking Powders

Baking powders are known by their trade name or Royal. As its name says, this product is made up of several ingredients, and for that reason, it is a little more complicated. It consists of sodium bicarbonate (one base) plus two acids.

Almost always, the acids used are monocalcium phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate. If you look at its packaging, most commercial baking powders say “double action” , that means that the acid-base reaction takes place in two stages, and that’s why you need two acids.

The first stage is carried out at room temperature, at the time you mix the ingredients. The acid that acts in this stage is the monocalcium phosphate, releasing a small amount of CO2 to give more body to the dough before baking.

The acid responsible for the second reaction is aluminum sulfate, which is an insoluble acid at room temperature. So you need the oven’s high temperatures to dissolve and produce CO2. Because CO2 is produced later, it has less time to escape, producing many bubbles in the mixture and resulting in more spongy cakes.

If you look at the list of ingredients, you will notice that cornstarch is also added to the baking powder. This is to prevent acid-base reactions from occurring while the product is stored. Despite the starch, it is likely that certain reactions are performed, so the baking powder always has an expiration date and it is recommended that you use it before that date to obtain the best results.

Impact on the final result of the products

Although the main purpose of Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder is to act as leavening agents, they also affect the flavor and color of baked goods.

If baking soda is not neutralized by an acid, it will increase the tan or golden color of a cake. That’s why many times in a recipe the two ingredients are listed: the baking soda for browning and the baking powder for the lever. The golden effect also has importance in the flavor; it leaves caramel notes that help the perception of the flavors. Otherwise, the baked goods would taste raw.

Now that you know the science behind these two ingredients, the next time you want to make a cake, some cookies or some muffins, be careful in replacing these products. Before preparing a recipe, I recommend that you always check which of the two ingredients it carries, if you only carry baking soda, make sure you also carry a type of acid to start the acid-base reaction.

In contrast, if a recipe carries only baking powder, the acidity does not matter. So generally you will see that neutral liquid such as milk or water are added.


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