Baking Soda: Learn all about this common baking leavener.

Baking Soda – How it works in baked goods


What is baking soda? Can I substitute baking powder for baking soda? Here’s what you need to know about this common baking leavener.

The key to getting a rise out of your baked goods is the use of proper leavening agents. The most common leavening agents found in the basic kitchen are baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. When mixed with a liquid, they produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes batter or dough to rise when heated.

Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda and is a prime ingredient in baking powder. It is alkaline in nature, and when combined with an acid, it creates carbon dioxide bubbles, giving rise to doughs and batters.

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James A. Church began marketing sodium bicarbonate as baking soda under the Arm & Hammer® label in 1867. Baking soda was previously known as saleratus, a combination of the Latin “sal” (salt) and “aeratus” (aerated.)

Baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable in recipes. Do not substitute.

Since it reacts with water, baking soda should be mixed thoroughly with dry ingredients before adding liquids. This will insure even leavening. Baking soda alone is normally used when sour milk, buttermilk or other acidic liquid is used in the recipe.

Be sure your baking soda is still viable. This is called “proofing.” To proof baking soda, measure 1/2 teaspoon into a cup. Pour in 1/2 cup hot tap water and 1/4 cup vinegar. The mixture should bubble.

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To store, place the opened box of baking soda into a zip-top bag, squeeze out the air, and seal. Alternatively, pour the baking soda into an airtight jar, label, and seal.

Although baking soda was once added to water when boiling green vegetables to preserve color, it is now known that this process destroys vitamin C content, so ignore that old wives’ tale.

Baking soda Photo ©2023 Peggy Filippone

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Baking Soda - How it works in baked goods
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Baking Soda - How it works in baked goods
What is baking soda? Learn how to proof your baking soda to be sure it is still good, plus how to use and store it.
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Peg's Home Cooking

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