Baking powder

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a weak alkali and a weak acid, and is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. Baking powder works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture. It is used instead of yeast for end-products where fermentation flavors would be undesirable[1] or where the batter lacks the elastic structure to hold gas bubbles for more than a few minutes.[2] Because carbon dioxide is released at a faster rate through the acid-base reaction than through fermentation, breads made by chemical leavening are called quick breads. Most commercially available baking powders are made up of an alkaline component (typically sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda), one or more acid salts (such as tartaric acid), and an inert starch (cornstarch in most cases, though potato starch may also be used). Baking soda is the source of the carbon dioxide,[3] and the acid-base reaction can be generically represented as[4] NaHCO3 + H+ > Na+ + CO2 + H2O The inert starch serves several functions in baking powder. Primarily it is used to absorb moisture, and thus prolong shelf life by keeping the powder's alkaline and acidic components dry so as not to react with each other prematurely. A dry powder also flows and mixes more easily. Finally, the added bulk allows for more accurate measurements.[5] The acid in a baking powder can be either fast-acting or slow-acting.[6] A fast-acting acid reacts in a wet mixture with baking soda at room temperature, and a slow-acting acid will not react until heated in an oven. Baking powders that contain both fast- and slow-acting acids are double acting; those that contai only one acid are single acting. By providing a second rise in the oven, double-acting baking powders increase the reliability of baked goods by rendering the time elapsed between mixing and baking less critical, and this is the type most widely available to consumers today. Double-acting baking powders work in two phases; once when cold, and once when hot.[7] Common low-temperature acid salts include cream of tartar and monocalcium phosphate (also called calcium acid phosphate). High-temperature acid salts include sodium aluminium sulfate, sodium aluminum phosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate.Early chemical leavening was accomplished by activating baking soda in the presence of liquid(s) and an acid such as sour milk, vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar.[9] These acidulants all react with baking soda quickly, meaning that retention of gas bubbles was dependent on batter viscosity and that it was critical for the batter to be baked before the gas escaped. The development of baking powder created a system where the gas-producing reactions could be delayed until needed.[10] While various baking powders were sold in the first half of the 19th century, our modern variants were discovered by Alfred Bird in 1843. August Oetker, a German pharmacist, made baking powder very popular when he began selling his mixture to housewives. The recipe he created in 1891 is still sold as Backin in Germany. Oetker started the mass production of baking powder in 1898 and patented his technique in 1903. Following the American Civil War Joseph and Cornelius Hoagland developed a baking powder with the help of an employee, and their formula became known as Royal Baking Powder. The small company eventually moved to New York in the 1890s and became the largest manufacturer of baking powder.