Baking Powder 101

February 13, 2012

Ever wondered what baking powder actually was? Well here is your quick guide so you will know exactly what it is and how to use it

What is Baking Powder? Baking powder is blend of acid (calcium acid phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate or cream of tartar) and alkali (sodium bicarbonate/baking soda) that acts as a leavening agent in baked goods.

How to Buy: 3 major types:
Double-acting: releases leavening gases on contact with moisture and again during baking. Nearly every recipe for biscuits, cakes, and some cookies suggest double-acting baking soda.
Tartrate: single-acting powder that releases a volume of gas the instant it touches moisture.
Phosphate: A slightly slower-to-react single-acting powder. Take note of “Best by” date as its potency is reduced by age.

How to Use: Follow directions if you live in high altitudes, which impacts quantity of baking powder needed. Heat and moisture impact the reaction of baking powder in baking and cooking. Moisture ranges from 40 to 70 percent. Clabber Girl, Davis, KC, Royal and Hearth Club can be used interchangeably and are good for leavening in baked goods, by the reaction of baking soda and acid ingredients that lift and tenderize. Rumford brand cannot as it is a single acting leavening.

How to Store: Store baking powder, tightly sealed in a cool, dark cupboard for 3 to 6 months. Never refrigerate or freeze to avoid moisture and condensation rendering it useless. To check potency, "proof" your baking powder by pouring 1/3 cup of hot tap water over 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder in a cup. It should bubble rigorously. If not, toss it.

Health Benefits: Baking powders have less than 20 ppm gluten and are considered gluten free, but may be manufactured in facilities that use wheat. All are suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets. Contact the manufacturer if concerned.

Smarter Shopping: Nearly all U.S. brands are now owned by the same firm; therefore buy based on freshness and price.

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