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Cream of Tartar is a powdered form of potassium hydrogen tartrate made from grape seeds produced from the process of wine making. It is not a raising agent. It is an acid. Ah-ha, that’s a trick one!
Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate, a raising agent which is also an alkaline. It has a ‘washing powder’ sort of taste. If used in excess this soapy flavour comes through in baked cakes, slices and biscuits.
Baking Powder is a raising agent made up of cream of tartar (the acid) and bicarbonate of soda (the alkaline) with added cornflour, which keeps it dry. Gluten free products are available – check labelling.
To make bicarbonate of soda work, moisture and acid are needed. The acid comes from the Cream of Tartar in baking powder.
If bicarbonate of soda is called for on its’ own in a recipe, other acidic ingredients used such as buttermilk, yoghurt, chocolate or honey for example will add this element. (NOTE most foods contain a varying level of acidity components).
Immediately the raising agent has been added and combined with moisture and acid, a chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide.
These will deflate if the mixture is stirred vigorously or a delay is incurred before placing in oven. So as soon as your recipe is ready to be baked pop it in the oven!!
Once the heat hits the carbon dioxide it expands the bubbles causing even more rising.
Baking powder can be substituted in place of bicarbonate of soda, but a larger quantity would be required and probably will affect the taste. But, don’t use only bicarbonate of soda when baking powder is called for. Your recipe may lack the amount of acid required to cause the bicarb alone to create enough carbon dioxide for successful rising.
Baking Powder can be made by mixing 2 parts Cream of Tartar with one part Bicarbonate of Soda.
Self Raising Flour can be made by adding 2 teaspoons Baking Powder to 1 cup (250ml) of Plain Flour. Sieve to ensure raising agent is evenly distributed in the flour.
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