Baking powder is listed as an ingredient in a boatload of recipes, even some paleo-friendly recipes. It can be an important player in your cookies and muffins turning out just right by helping your yummies rise, increasing the volume, and making for a lighter texture. Baking powder is a leavening agent made up of a weak alkali and a weak acid. Most commercial baking powders are made up of 3 basic ingredients: the alkali – which is sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, the acid salts – which is usually sodium aluminum sulfate and a calcium phospate and the cornSTARCH – which is to keep the other ingredients dry so they don’t start reacting with each other while they’re still behind closed doors, thus prolonging shelf life.
So, how does the Clabber Girl work her magic in your cakes and cookies? That is the burning question on every baker’s mind. I know it has been for me since I slung my first teaspoon of the white powder in my a batch of cookies thirtysome years ago.
First, when the baking soda reacts with the acid(s) it releases carbon dioxide gas in the batter or dough creating little tiny bubbles which expands your dough/batter. This increases the volume and makes the texture lighter.
Second, most commercial baking powders are double-acting. This means the ingredients start releasing the leavening gases when they become wet – you know, when you add milk and eggs, and then again from heat – when your yummies get all hot and bothered in the oven. This means it contains the 2 types of acid salts: the fast-acting calcium phosphate acid that reacts when it meets up with the wet ingredients and slow-acting sodium aluminum sulfate acid that reacts a second time when it gets slammed with some heat. Double-action means that the time between mixing all the dry and wet ingredients and the time to get in the oven isn’t too big of a deal. Who knew?
Third, that pesky little ingredient cornstarch serves absolutely no purpose in the actual baking process. It only serves to keep the ingredients from reacting too soon, which makes it more convenient than mixing only what you need, when you need it.
A couple problems with commercial baking powder is it includes aluminum, something I’d just as soon not ingest. I mean, there is that connection with aluminum and Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease that has effected my family. I realize the amount in baking powder probably isn’t enough to raise an eyebrow at but why include it when it can so easily be eliminated. The aluminum also results in a bitter, tinny taste to your baked goods. So a big eww on the aluminum.
And then there’s that whole cornstarch thing for those of us ASers trying to kick it to the curb. And let’s not forget anything that includes corn or it’s byproducts is more than likely to include GMO’s. Another big EWWW on the cornstarch.
What to do when you see a recipe that otherwise is safe for a No Starch Diet, but has baking powder listed with the ingredients, you ask? Make you own and that’s really the only option, as I’ve yet to find a commercial product that doesn’t include some form of starch. It only adds a few extra seconds to your total baking time to mix some up. (For those of you wondering why some recipes only call for baking soda as the leavening agent and think you can simply substitute it for baking powder, here’s a pretty good post that explains why you can’t and when you can.)
The basic formula for mixing up a fresh batch of baking powder is: 1 part baking soda to 2 parts cream of tartar.
For 1 tablespoon baking powder – mix together:
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
For the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of baking powder – mix together (you’re omitting the starch so even though it doesn’t measure out the same it is the equivalent):
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
This won’t be a double-acting baking powder. Cream of tartar is a fast-acting acid, so this means you’ll want to do double-time in getting your lovelies in the oven after you’ve mixed in your wet ingredients. However, Lili over at Creative Savv says, “My last pancake in a batch comes out just as fluffy as the first.”
Hope this helps and happy baking!!
*Please note: the No Starch and Low Starch Diets are NOT a "one size fits all diet." Each individual is affected differently by different foods. So please keep a food journal to make note of what foods have a negative effect on your pain and inflammation levels and conduct a starch test on all of your foods before you eat anything.