Baking powder is a fine white powder which is a leavening agent which is a combination of an acid (cream of tartar) and alkaline (baking soda). It is responsible for rise in doughs, batters etc. Thus recipes which contain an acid like lemon juice, curds, buttermilk etc will activate baking powder more effectively. Do note that excess baking powder will cause the product to collapse while less baking powder will make it heavy.
Always sift baking powder along with the dry ingredients to provide for aeration. Usually recipes call for a teaspoon of baking powder in recipes container one cup of plain flour. However, if there is an acid medium in the recipe, you can easily reduce the quantity of baking powder in the recipe.
Baking powder activates only at room temperature. Thus, it is important that all the other ingredients for the recipe are also at room temperature. In order to prevent baking powder from absorbing moisture, cornstarch may be added in minute quantities.
There are two varieties of baking powder which are readily available in the market. Choose according to the recipe requirement.
· Single acting baking powder: It reacts once it is mixed with the moist ingredients/ liquid. If you are baking as soon as you make the dough/ batter, then use single acting baking powder.
· Double acting baking powder: It contains two acidic ingredients, usually alum and cream of tartar. The primary action is when the moist ingredients/ liquid are added and the secondary action begins when the product is baked/ heated/ cooked.
To make your own baking powder at home when it may not be available, combine baking soda and cream of tartar in the ratio 1:2. Thus, if a recipe calls for 3 tsp of baking powder use, baking soda and cream of tartar in the ratio 1 tsp:2 tsp.
How to select
Select from known brands. Check the manufacturing date, expiry date and the packaging before purchasing.
· Since it is a leavening agent, it is predominantly used in cake recipes.
· It can be substituted for yeast in quick bread recipes.
· Combine with pancake batter to make delicious savoury and sweet pancakes with fillings of your choice.
How to store
Store in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Moisture and heat can reduce the effectiveness of baking powder. However, to test the freshness, place 1 tsp of baking powder in a small bowl containing hot water. If it fizzes at once, it is active and can still be used.