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And This Is Why Baking Powder Can't Be Used As Baking Soda


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I never knew the difference until now.

As everyone knows from early chemistry class, baking soda fizzes over the sides of a jar when it's combined with vinegar. The sodium bicarbonate and the acid in the vinegar swap a few molecules, resulting in carbonic acid. Carbonic acid causes the slightly acidic lemony taste in mineral water, and is present in almost all carbonated beverages. It breaks down quickly into water and carbon dioxide. In soft drinks, that carbon dioxide fizzes to the top. In baked goods it does the same, but more slowly, expanding bubbles all the way through the dough and causing it to rise. It doesn't have the massive reaction that we see in vinegar, because people rarely make, say, vinegar brownies. More often there are weak acids in the baked goods, like chocolate, buttermilk, or honey, and the baking soda fizzes slowly.

Baking powder is another matter. It's baking soda, but icream of tartar is mixed into the soda. When moistened, the two ingredients react more automatically and violently, fluffing up the baked goods right away. In most modern baking powders, there's also a second ingredient, sodium aluminum sulfate. It doesn't react right away, but breaks down into an acid when heated, leading to a second boost of bubbles.

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