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Baking powder is a fine white powder, which is used as a leavening agent. That is, it helps dough, batter, etc., to rise well. Baking powder is a combination of an acid (cream of tartar) and alkali (baking soda).
To make your own baking powder at home when it is not available in the store, combine baking soda and cream of tartar in the ratio 1:2. If a recipe calls for 3 tsp. of baking powder use, baking soda and cream of tartar in the ratio 1 tsp.: 2 tsp.
Some things to remember when using baking powder:
• In any recipe, the amount of baking powder should be used very precisely, as excess baking powder will cause the product to collapse while less baking powder will make it heavy.
• Usually recipes call for a teaspoon of baking powder per cup of plain flour.
• Recipes that contain an acidic substance like lemon juice, curds or buttermilk will activate baking powder more effectively. So, if there is an acid medium in the recipe, you can easily reduce the quantity of baking powder used.
• Always sift baking powder along with the dry ingredients to provide for aeration.
• Baking powder activates only at room temperature. Thus, it is important that all the other ingredients used in the recipe are also at room temperature.
• In order to prevent baking powder from absorbing moisture, corn-starch 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.
How to select
• Select from known brands.
• Choose between single acting and double acting baking powder according to your requirement.
• 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 airtight container in a cool and dry place.
• Remember that moisture and heat can reduce the effectiveness of baking powder.
• To test the freshness before use, 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.