The New Bakers Dozen
Baking Soda Chemistry

The The Bakers Dozen: Baking Soda Chemistry
By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 05:55 pm: Edit

Can anyone explain the chemistry of how and why baking soda affects the browning in cakes?

In our restaurant, we make our own pancake batter, and I've been trying to figure out why I seem to be the only person capable of making a batter that works. (Now I know why everybody uses mixes. "Idiot-proof" is starting to look like a pretty good quality for a product to have.) Anywaaay, I know I have heard/read that b.soda affects browning, but how? Is it just how it affect the pH?

By Panini (Panini) on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 06:28 pm: Edit

Hey, how are you all doing? I'm pretty sure that the baking soda won't have any effect on browning. Now the acid you are using might be to strong and it will release the co2 to quickly which will flatten the cakes and brown them faster because they are heavier. Are you using the soda as a leavening? and what acid are you using to kick it? buttermilk,molasses etc.? If your using to much acid, wet or dry you might be getting a to-fast co2 release. Does this make sence?

By c on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 06:37 pm: Edit

And while on the subject, I've been meaning to ask what the difference in effect is between using baking powder and baking soda.

By Panini (Panini) on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 07:35 pm: Edit

baking soda is used for leavening when combined with liquid acids to create co2. Lemon juice, buttermilk,honey ya know acidic things.
baking powder is baking soda mixed with a dry acid which reacts when you add liquid.
Anyway, this is how I've always understood it over the years, and this is also how I make adjuistments in formulas.
I might very well be wrong though.

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Friday, November 17, 2000 - 08:59 pm: Edit

Panini - Hi! We're doing great! Busy, busy, busy. We're really settling in and running much more smoothly. If we could only get enough employees...But hey, we're keeping down our labor costs when we do it all ourselves.

In the biscotti thread, d. mentions that b.soda affects browning, and I know I've read it elsewhere. I have a suspicion it is because of the pH thing.

I have a good handle on the b.soda/acid stuff, and I've worked on this recipe enough to know I've got a good balance between the b.soda, buttemilk and b.powder. when it's made correctly. These pancakes are really great when they're right.

What I want to get better at is understanding what's wrong with the batter by looking at the finished cakes. We've had all kinds of problems, one of which is pancakes that brown too quickly, and therefore don't have enough time to bake through before they burn - even when the griddle is at a constant temp that worked with the previous batch. If too much browning is even partially a function of the b.soda level, it might help me to save the batch of batter by fixing it up one way or the other (which is a much better option than starting from scratch when you have a full dining room, a waiting list and a row of tickets a mile long on the line.)

Your explanation above of the functions of b.soda and b.powder is correct, except I would add that baking powder is often "double acting" which means it reacts once when the liquid hits it and a second time when it is heated.

By d. on Saturday, November 18, 2000 - 06:48 pm: Edit

Hey Ramadeo, glad things are going mostly well in your neck of the woods. I've done quite a bit of reading regarding the baking soda/baking powder relationship and there really isn't much detailed info. on as to why b.soda contributes to browning in baked goods.I have Shirley Corriher's Cookwise(a fantastic read) and she says "...B.powder contains its own acids and does not neutralize acids in the dough/batter. This leaves the dough acidic and makes cookies bake faster and spread less. Sometimes you will see a cookie dough recipe with (a lot more) baking soda, these larger amounts do not contribute to leavening but are there for better browning. Baked goods made with an acidic batter set faster but do not brown well. B. soda neutralizes the acidity so the cookies will brown better."

By d. on Saturday, November 18, 2000 - 06:48 pm: Edit

I have made 2 identical recipes of yellow butter cake with buttermilk. In one I neutralized the 8 oz. buttermilk with 1/2 t.(sometimes I even use 3/4 t.) and got my leavening from that with additional bit of b. powder. The second cake I used buttermilk and enough baking powder to equal the leavening of cake #1. Cake #1 was browner and a bit lighter. Cake #2 was pale and just a tiny bit dense. I did prefer the taste of cake #1.
Anyway, I hope some of this info. is helpful.

By Kris_b (Kris_b) on Wednesday, December 06, 2000 - 11:23 pm: Edit

With pancake batter, keep the batter cold to keep the gas(carbon dioxide). The solubility of a gas is inversely proportional to temperature so as the temperature rises, the gas dissolves.

By Kris_b (Kris_b) on Wednesday, December 06, 2000 - 11:24 pm: Edit

An easy way to remember the difference between baking soda and baking powder: soda spreads and powder puffs.

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