Sunday, 24 May 2015

[Ba]king [B]read

Who doesn’t love everything about freshly baked bread? From the mouth watering smell to the warm, soft fluffy dough, there’s really nothing you can complain about. But let’s admit it, at least once while baking bread we’ve all wondered what baking powder does and why we need this strange white substance.

Not much to my surprise, with a little bit of research we can figure out that baking powder is really just chemistry at it’s finest! Baking powder is used to make the dough rise, and without it, we would not have the fluffy consistency everybody knows and loves!  

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda(Sodium Bicarbonate) and a dry acid(for example; sodium aluminum sulfate, cream of tartar). When liquid is added, these ingredients react to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas-- which makes the dough rise!(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

The balanced chemical reaction between the sodium bicarbonate(NaHCO3) and the cream of tartar(KHC4H4O6 ) is:
NaHCO3 + KHC4H4O6 → KNaC4H4O6 + H2O + CO2
(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

Similarly for sodium bicarbonate and aluminum sulfate(NaAl(SO4)22):
3 NaHCO3 + NaAl(SO4)2 → Al(OH)3 + 2 Na2SO4 + 3 CO2
(How Baking Powder Works, Helminstine)

With power-- or should I say powder comes responsibility. If you add too much it can cause the bread/cake to taste bitter. It can also cause the dough to rise too quickly and collapse due to the air bubbles in the batter growing too large. But too little can result in a tough cake with poor volume and compact crumb.( Baking Powder and Baking Soda, Jaworski)\

QOTD: Yeast is also used to rise dough! Although they can be used for the same reasons, there are some large differences in between the two and at some instances they cannot be used interchangeably! Any thoughts on the comparison?

Thank you, please comment and if you would like to see the bibliography it will be updated on the  Resources post!


  1. Hey Celeste!

    Although yeast and baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) can be used for the same reasons, yeast is just a lot cooler as it is a living organism! It is basically a bunch of eukaryotic microorganisms. They produce carbon dioxide gas from the sugars that are present in the dough, which could be why some people agree that yeast tastes better thank baking soda. Although the shelf-life of the baking soda is way longer than yeast's, most people prefer to use yeast as it does have a higher nutritional value. Of course, yeast does contain much more calories than baking soda but during a recent experiment using rats, the ones who were fed yeast were healthier looking and weighed more. Also yeast can be used as an antineuritic which basically means that It acts to prevent inflammation or degenerative lesions of nerves. So basically, even though yeast does have its negative effects, it is proven to be the better alternative than baking soda.

  2. Upon further research I have discovered that yeast is a fungi that produces CO2 bubbles by eating and processing the sugar in flour into carbon dioxide, whereas baking soda produces Carbon dioxide bubbles through more simple chemical reactions (as you explained.) Due to the fact that yeast is a naturally-occurring fungus, rather than a manufactured powder, the former is probably healthier. Yeast leavened bread is said to have a more distinct and better flavor than bitter, or at best, flavorless, baking soda leavened bread. Personally, I cannot taste the difference and am therefore apathetic to the issue, however, as a strong believer in the importance of holistic eating, I would prefer yeast of baking soda. Christa's comment about the rat experiment also made me more inclined to eat yeast because as a runner, who is constantly hungry, I am not concerned with calories so much as the health benefits and nutrients available in particular foods. The chemistry of both is very interesting, Thanks Celeste!