Baking Soda or Baking Powder – What’s the Difference?

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Baking Soda or Baking Powder - What's the Difference?

You almost can’t make biscuits, cakes, or cupcakes without them. Baking soda or baking powder? They sound very similar. They look quite similar too: they are both white and have a dusty appearance. But what are the differences between them? And what do you use them for?

It happens to my boyfriend frequently. I ask him to pick up some baking powder at the store and he comes home with baking soda. Or the other way around. I don’t know how he does it. But I understand it since baking soda and baking powder have very similar names. And you use them both for baking. Sometimes even in the same recipe. But they are not interchangeable and if you do not use them properly, you could have some baking accidents. So learn what’s necessary for your recipe: baking soda or baking powder?

First of all, they’re both chemical leaveners – which means that when you add them to a batter or a dough they start a chemical reaction that makes your final product fluffy and airy.

Baking soda or baking powder – how are they different?

Baking soda

Sodium bicarbonate or baking soda is a salt, a base mineral which looks like a fine powder. It is usually used in baking as a leavening agent or raising agent because it helps the dough rise. When you combine baking soda with something acidic, like molasses, maple syrup, lemon juice, and pumpkin, it produces carbon dioxide.

Recipes using baking soda are usually crisper than the ones without. But be careful with the dose you use. Because too much baking soda can make your muffins, cookies or bread more bitter in taste. It can be used as a tenderizer for vegetables. It’s still used in Asian and Latin American cuisine as a meat tenderizer.

Also, baking soda has a surprisingly high number of uses around the house. It’s amazing as a cleaning agent, for almost anything you can imagine: toothbrushes, drains, or carpets. It can also be used to deodorize some objects in your house, like the kitty box or the laundry hamper.

Don’t forget that baking soda interacts with humidity, so you need to keep it in a cool and dry place.

Baking Soda or Baking Powder - What's the Difference?
Baking soda is excellent in food, but it’s also great for cleaning around the house.

Baking powder

This is actually a combination of baking soda and an acid, in the presence of a substance which keeps the two from reacting together – the substance is called an inert stabilizer and is often cornstarch. This mixture stays inactive until you add liquid to it, which means that the baking soda and the acid combine to create carbon dioxide, which looks like bubbles. Without this process, your baked goods would look a bit tragic and not fully formed.

Just like baking soda, baking powder thrives in a cool, dry place, away from humidity, because otherwise the acid and the soda react together, and the powder becomes useless.

You also need to be aware that there are two kinds of baking powder: single-acting or double-acting. So, make sure to look at the label whenever you go to the supermarket. The single acting one reacts completely when you combine it with a liquid. But the double-acting one is designed to react twice. The first time when combined with a liquid, and the second time when heat is involved.

So, to recap! If your recipe already has some sort of acid ingredient in it, you only need to use some baking soda. If there is no such thing, you’ll need to get some baking powder, in order for your dough or batter to be the best it can be!

Baking Soda or Baking Powder - What's the Difference?
Keep baking powder away from humidity, in a cool, dry place.

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