If you shoved your baking staples to back of your cabinet since last holiday season, you may need this baking soda and baking powder test. Because, just like your other ingredients, baking soda and powder freshness counts. So, before you gather your ingredients and pre-heat the oven, do this quick test to make sure your gingerbread men emerge from the oven pleasantly plump and your cakes rise to the occasion!
Why You Should Test Baking Soda and Baking Powder Freshness.
Both lose their effectiveness over time, typically after anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after opening. But, if opened and stored under humid conditions, they may not last until the “best used by” date on the container.
What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
The difference is that baking powder contains an acid, whereas baking soda does not. So, when using baking soda, an acid be added separately. Either way, when the acid interacts with the soda, carbon dioxide gas develops, giving your baked goods that pillow-like loft and airiness.
Baking Soda Test for Freshness
Start with a few tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Then, add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. If the baking soda is still viable, it will fizz and bubble right away. If it doesn’t, it can still be used for household cleaning. But, buy a new container for baking.
Baking Powder Test for Freshness
Start with a few tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl. Then, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the warm water. If your baking powder is still alive and kicking the mixture will start to fizz. If nothing happens, it has passed its prime.
Should I Buy Aluminum-Free Baking Powder?
In many commercial brands of baking powder, the acid is sodium aluminum phosphate or sodium aluminum sulfate. See the problem?… So, I recommend aluminum-free baking powder for the following reasons and with one key consideration.
- Health. There is the A-word. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin. Chronic aluminum exposure is linked to many neurological diseases, including dementia, autism and Parkinson’s disease.
- Flavor. According to David Lebovitz, switching to aluminum-free baking powder is “one of the least expensive, and most effective, things you can do to improve the taste of your cakes, quick breads, cookies, and muffins.” Because, besides being a neurotoxin, the aluminum can cause a ‘tinny’ taste can come through in more subtly flavored desserts or if you use just a tad too much of aluminum-containing baking powder.
- Timing. Aluminum-containing baking powders are double-acting, meaning that they react first with liquid, then again with heat. However, aluminum-free baking powders react only with liquid, but not with heat. This means you have one shot at the reaction. Once you combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, the clock starts ticking. So, be ready to put the mixture into the oven immediately. Otherwise, the bubbles might deflate before baking. The result would be holiday cookies that are more like crackers. Not necessary! Just plan ahead and it will be fine.