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Baking soda and baking powder: how much to use

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I've always loved baking but never learned the science behind it.  I'm reading about the why's and how's of using baking powder and baking soda and starting to understand when and why to use each one.


In general, most sources I've seen so far recommend using 1 tsp. BP for each cup of flour. Now I'm assuming that's a general recommendation when the recipe does NOT include BS, since one source I just read says to "use about ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon baking powder for each 2 cups flour"  If I followed the general guidelines noted earlier, I'd use 2 tsp. BP. 


I found a blog recipe for lemon blueberry muffins using sour cream, yogurt, 1/4 C lemon juice, and blueberries (i.e. lots of acids + heavy additions). The recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp. BP, but no BS.  Based on my reading so far, I'm considering changing the leavening to 2 tsp BP and 1/4 BS.


However, I'm still not clear on how much BS to use when adding acids not included in the original recipe.  If I use brown sugar instead of white, or yogurt instead of plain milk, how much BS should I use for each cup of flour --- and is this determined by the BP already in the recipe?




post #2 of 3

BS will convert the acids, thereby shifting the flavor.  Baking soda leavens instantly so its easy to lose the lift while you mix the batter.


Baking powder is generally a double action with an initial baking soda like reaction when wetted and a second added lift activated when temps hit about 130 as I recall, usually during the baking process. Now there are single acting baking powders with high lift like Rumford and even no sodium baking powder like Featherlite from Hain but it too is single acting and you need to use more of it to achieve the same results.. You can also mix up your own fresh single acting baking powder from Baking soda and cream of tartar.


Substitutions in baking are far more art than simple rules of exchange. You can't just say that the recipe has lots of acid so you want to use baking soda instead. The choice and how much of a leavener is influenced by the techniques used in mixing, cooking and the desired  results. Creaming butter and sugar is a leavening action. Eggs add some lift of their own. Beaten egg whites can be used for leavening.


Consider that commercial bread needs no yeast for leavening. It's added solely for flavor. The intense, quick powerful kneading of the factory mixers beats in enough air to fully leaven the loaf when baked.


The sorts of substitutions you want to make are found more by trial and error and the experience that develops out of it.


Bakewise by Shirley Corrihor will likely help you on this path as she explains many principles of baking and uses particular recipes of example of what she just explained.

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your reply and also for the book recommendation... I was going to ask for a book recommendation but feared it would get lost within all the other text.


Cook's Illustrated has a similar recipe with similar proportions, calling for 1/2 t. BS and 1 T BP with 3 C flour, but no lemon juice, and uses the creaming method.  I'll experiment with mine which uses the muffin mixing method, and compare with CI's recipe which I'll try next time.



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