Ask Our Experts

Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.

Add to My MSN

What's the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

2/6/2008 12:00:00 AM

Tags: baking powder, baking soda, acid

What's the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Are they interchangeable?

Lisa Yonk
Rogers, Arkansas

Baking soda and baking powder both help create a reaction that causes doughs to rise. This chemical reaction is dependent on the interaction of a base and an acid.

Baking soda is the common name for sodium bicarbonate, which is a base. When combined with an acid plus some moisture, such as buttermilk, the reaction releases carbon dioxide bubbles, causing dough to expand.

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it also contains the acid necessary to produce the chemical reaction, usually in the form of cream of tartar. It only needs to be combined with moisture to begin working.

This chemical reaction has the effect of neutralizing the acid. So if you want the acid in your dough to retain its strength and flavor, such as when using buttermilk in pancakes, always use baking powder instead of baking soda. The only acid that will be neutralized will be the one contained in the baking powder, instead of the one in your dough that is working to create acidic flavors. On the other hand, if you want to reduce the acidity in your dough — say, when using a sourdough starter to make a sweeter dish — opt for baking soda.

Both baking soda and baking powder work quickly, so if you're making anything out of a batter or dough that relies on them for leavening, it's best to cook them right away. However, when working with whole grain doughs, it helps to let the dough rest for a while before use (so the whole grains will have a chance to absorb enough moisture). So if you're using a whole grain dough that also requires baking soda or baking powder, wait until after the dough has had a chance to rest for at least 15 minutes before adding the leavening agent.

— Tabitha Alterman, senior associate editor

 



Related Content

Sourdough Biscuits

This is a simple beginning recipe to use your sourdough starter to make biscuits. These biscuits wil...

Homemade Dishwashing Solutions

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers recently named dishwashing formula as their most desired DIY cleaner, so w...

Borax Has Issues; You Have Alternatives

Because it could cause eye and skin irritation and harm reproductive systems, the Environmental Work...

Nontoxic Ways to Unclog Drains

A clogged sink can be fixed without harsh chemicals!

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 







Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.