is there a difference in Baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda ?

Bicarb or baking powderBut, they are chemically different let’s have a closer look

Bicarbonate of soda gives a different quality to baking powder in cooking. It can have a slightly “tangy” taste and it gives a golden colour. It also gives a very specific texture that’s not achievable with baking powder.

Here’s the science bit Bicarbonate of soda is a pure raising agent. It has to be mixed with moisture and something acidic for the chemical reaction to take place and make food rise. Bicarbonate of soda is a BASE. remember the science experiment we did at school? Mixing bicarbonate of soda with vinegar and watching an eruption of bubbles? we did this in a model of volcano. When you mix bicarbonate of soda (BASE) with vinegar (ACID) you get a chemical reaction (an eruption of bubbles!).  A product of this reaction is carbon dioxide.

The same exact reaction happens in our baking, cakes, breads, biscuits etc. When a recipe asks for bicarbonate of soda (BASE), it usually asks 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. We need this ACID in the recipe to react with the bicarbonate of soda, which creates carbon dioxide bubbles allowing our baked good to rise.

Bicarbonate of soda is quite strong, it’s about 3-4x stronger than baking powder but be careful adding more bicarbonate of soda in a recipe doesn’t mean more lift. use *just enough* to react with the amount of acid in the recipe. Too much bicarbonate of soda and not enough acid means there will be bicarbonate of soda left in the dish. We don’t want that; it will leave an unpleasant soapy, metallic, taste in your baking.

What is Baking Powder?

Baking powder, contains bicarbonate of soda, pre-mixed with the acidic ingredient for you – so all you need to add is the moisture. most baking powder we buy is double acting. This means that the first reaction happens when the baking powder gets wet. (This is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later– because the baking powder has already been activated.) The second reaction occurs when the baking powder is heated. Baking powder has a neutral taste and is often used in recipes that have other neutral-tasting ingredients, like milk.

Top tips:

Self-raising flour is plain flour with baking powder added to it. If you’re short of self-raising flour for a recipe you can make your own. Just add half a teaspoon of baking powder per 100g of plain flour.

Once mixed with the wet ingredients, raising agents start fizzing away to make lots of air bubbles.

To be sure you don’t lose this air, get your mixture into the oven as soon as possible or the protein structure that locks air bubbles into the sponge will start to collapse.

It is very important to sift bicarbonate of soda well as it can get lumpy be careful and use exact measures as the “tangy” taste can spoil a dish with a bitter or soapy note if too much is used.

Check use-by dates as old raising agents lose their effectiveness.

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