What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

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When I was browsing for new recipes online, I didn't pay attention to the difference between baking soda and baking powder. So, at that time I just thought that substituting one from another wouldn't affect the recipe. Well, turns out I was wrong. I had pancakes that had metallic aftertaste and cakes that were not rising. After testing and learning about the difference between them. I decided to share with you how baking soda and baking powder differs from each other and how you should use them.

In short terms:

The difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder is their acidity needs. Baking Soda needs acidic ingredients in the recipe to obtain a reaction while Baking Powder is Baking Soda already mixed with acid.

Now lets discuss about each of them and how you can substitute one from another the proper way.

What is baking soda?

Baking soda also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a leavening agent that creates a chemical reaction when in contact with acid and liquid ingredients. The reaction produces carbon dioxide that helps our baked goods to rise.

If you use baking soda for your recipe, make sure to include acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, brown sugar or lemon juice (just to say the least). If you find a recipe that requires a baking powder but baking soda is what you have on hand, you can substitute the powder by adding acidic ingredients into your mixture. However, make sure that you use the right amount.

As a rule of thumb, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is more or less equivalent to 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Just remember that the acidity of the ingredients in your recipe can slightly change this ratio.

What is baking powder?

Baking powder is a leavening agent that is made of baking soda and dry acid (cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate). 2 types of baking powder is available: single and double. It refers to the way the powder reacts when in contact with liquid. Most of the baking powder you will see on the market are double acting, as, single acting powder are usually for food manufacturers.

Double acting baking powder reacts in two stages. The first reaction happens when you mix the powder with liquid ingredients and the second happens when the mixture is heated.

In general, baking powder is usually used when the recipe doesn’t contain any acid ingredients or if the recipe requires longer reaction time (leavening time).

Why Do recipes use baking powder, baking soda or both?

In short terms, it is about balancing acid and base. If no acid ingredients is used for your recipe, you will need to use baking powder to create lift. Or, if your recipe has acidic ingredients but the reaction with the baking soda is not enough to create your desired volume, you can add baking powder to achieve the desired lift. Also, some recipes may require a longer reaction time that can be achieved by using a two stage leavening agent, the baking powder. (If you are looking to let your dough rise for a couple of hours you might need to consider yeast instead)

If you decide to substitute one from another, keep in mind that, due to its property, baking soda has much more leavening power compared to baking powder. Around 3 to 4 times higher strength. In general terms, you can expect to use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per cups of flour compared to 1 teaspoon baking powder per cups of flour.

If you experience some metallic, bitter or weird aftertaste, you probably should review the balance between the base and acid. Your baking soda is the base and the acid will be from your ingredients.

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