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       Volume I - June 19, 2009

The Science Behind
Baking Soda

by Alice Osborne and Patty Osborne

Have you ever wondered “What’s so important about baking soda — why do some recipes need it?” We did, so we “looked it up” (as our mamas always told us to do). Here’s what we found, courtesy of the ARM & HAMMER® Baking Soda company:

What does baking soda do when you bake?
It’s original use was as an essential ingredient for baking. In dough or a batter, it helps to make the dough rise, also known as leavening. When baking soda in a batter is heated and combined with acidic ingredients (like lemon juice or buttermilk), it gives off carbon dioxide which, in turn, causes the dough to rise. This leavening increases the surface area of dough or batter by causing it to rise and become light and porous, and that makes for one tasty cake! Check out biscuit recipe that calls for baking soda along with baking powder!

Baking Soda Biscuits

3 c. flour
1/2 c. butter
1 tbsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 c. sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

Sift flour, baking soda and powder and salt. Cut in butter with 2 knives. Add milk and vanilla. Stir with a fork until dough pulls away from bowl. Turn onto floured board. Roll to 1 inch thick sheet. Using a round cutter cut 16 to 24 biscuits. Re-roll if needed but try not to handle the dough too much. Place on ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Brush egg yolk on top of biscuits and sprinkle with seeds as desired. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

  Download this recipe.

How can I tell if my baking soda is still effective for baking?
There is no easy test for determining the acceptability of baking soda beyond the expiration date which appears on the bottom of every box of baking soda. For those uses that require optimum performance, such as baking, it’s recommended purchasing a fresh box.

And a hot tip:
For thumbs up whites with less harsh chemicals that tend to damage clothes add ½ cup of baking soda with a ½ cup of bleach (instead of the usual 1 cup of bleach).

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