Baking Powder vs Baking Soda

How different are baking soda and baking powder from each other? Have an idea on which is which and be a better baker; or even if you just bake for fun, it will be good.

bowl of baking soda

Baking is an intricate method of cooking. Not all baked goods are made using the same procedures, even each and every ingredient is carefully picked to suit the requirements of a certain food. Because of this, it is important to be knowledgeable about all aspects of baking.

However, there are two key ingredients that somehow manage to confuse even the professional bakers themselves – the baking powder and the baking soda.


Baking Powder vs Baking Soda

So, what are the characteristics of these two ingredients that make them hard to differentiate from each other most of the time? First of all, their appearance. In terms of appearance, both baking powder and baking soda look like plain, white powder. They may also be mistaken as flour since they all just look alike, and even the flour has a lot of different kinds so that just makes it more confusing. Second, sometimes their almost similar names cause confusion. Many people thought of baking powder as another name for baking soda, or the other way around.

Those two aspects are what they call the similarities of both baking ingredients. Then, how will we be able to identify which is which? Fortunately, there are a number of recognizable difference between the two; this is what baker aspirants or even normal people who like to cook should keep in mind. Also, being able to differentiate baking powder and baking soda will be a huge help in avoiding any kitchen disaster that might possibly occur.


Baking Soda

When referring to baking soda, we are reminded of the brand name Arm & Hammer. This is because this baking ingredient has a special characteristic of being multipurpose. Almost all households are using baking soda in different ways. What is with baking soda that it can even be used as a household item?

Baking soda is the trade name of the chemical compound sodium bicarbonate, which is a kind of salt that consists of positive ions of sodium and negative ions of bicarbonate; in chemical terms. Also, it has chemical properties that can be used as a cleaning agent, this is one of the reasons why it is also loved as a disinfectant.

In terms of baking and cooking, the baking soda works as a leavening agent. Leavening agents are used mainly to act in the rising of doughs and batters. The reaction of the baking soda starts once it is mixed with other ingredients, specifically liquids and those that have amounts of acid content. As the reaction is happening, carbon dioxide is being produced by the mixture; then the bubbles are formed which are responsible for the lifting and rising of the dough.

Most baked goods need the help of baking soda to achieve their wanted consistency. The ingredient can also make food crispier than those which do not contain baking soda. However, the application of soda should only be as little as possible so be sure to follow recipes strictly when it comes to using baking soda or else the excess will ruin the taste of the food; it will taste bitter instead.


Baking Powder

Amazingly, baking powder is indeed similar to baking soda; only that it is not only made up of baking soda but it also contains another specific kind of acid that is said to be in powdered form too.

This is where we find the main difference between baking soda and baking powder.

The baking powder does not necessarily differ from baking soda; it is only that the baking powder can easily react to even slight moisture, whereas the baking soda still needs the help of a specific amount of liquid or acid to produce the carbon dioxide.

Also, there are two kinds of baking powder that people can choose from, depending on their need.

Single-Acting Baking Powder

Since it is called single-acting, this is the kind of powder that easily reacts to liquids. Once it officially reacts with the liquid, it should immediately be put in the oven.

Double-Acting Baking Powder

The most common brands of baking powder that we use are usually those that are double-acting. It is called double-acting due to its twofold reaction: first is when it gets in contact with the liquid ingredient by getting dissolved in it and the second is when it is finally applied with heat (via the oven). This way, the baked goods possess an even greater consistency. Also, there are some recipes that specifically requires the use of baking powder than the baking soda.

Now that we have knowledge regarding the two baking ingredients, what should we know about their real differences?


The Real Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder

First off, the baking soda is a commercialized chemical compound that needs acidic liquid in order to produce the carbon dioxide that is needed for the rising of the dough. The baking soda gives off unpleasant aftertastes when used in improper amounts. Also, baking soda is considered as a great disinfectant for cleaning.

Second, the baking powder (specifically the double-acting one) is a combination of baking soda and another acid. This makes the powder a faster reactor compared to the baking soda, but it is said to be easier to use and better in achieving desired consistencies in cooking. There is also no need to immediately put the food in the oven since the powder has enough properties that can still give the dough the desired rise.

So, how do we know which is best to use? The answer is both.

All it takes is being mindful and aware of all the ingredients you’ll be needing so you can decide on which to choose. For example, the acidity levels of your other ingredients will make a huge impact on whether you should use baking soda or baking powder.

One good example is when baking buttermilk biscuits. One will think that it is better to use baking soda because of the acidic property of buttermilk, however that does not work well. For starters, once the baking soda reacts on the buttermilk; it may fully lose its tangy flavor. The best advice? Use both. Just a little amount of baking soda will be enough to provide an initial lift on the cookie dough, and then add the required amount of baking powder for a more lightweight biscuit that still remains its delicious flavor.

Baking Soda

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