Learn About Baking Soda

Author: Chef Toby

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What Is Baking Soda? 

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is a white powder that gives rise to foods in cooking and baking. In nature, it is found as a crystal substance, but it is sold at grocery stores as a white powder in a cardboard container or a tin can. 

Baking soda is an alkaline substance, so when it is mixed with an acid, it creates carbon dioxide. These carbon dioxide bubbles get trapped in batters, causing anything from muffins to pancakes to lift. Common acids that are combined with baking soda are lemon, vinegar, buttermilk, or yogurt. Baking soda will also cause foods to rise when they’re put under high heat, such as in an oven or in a hot pan.

Learn About Baking Soda

What Does Baking Soda Taste Like?

Baking soda has a salty, bitter taste when consumed on its own. However, it is rarely consumed this way, and because it is added in such small quantities, it does not alter the flavor when used in cooking and baking.

When Is Baking Soda Used?

Baking soda is used in many fried foods and “quick bread”, such as cakes, muffins, and pancakes. Some batters don’t have enough elasticity to handle active yeast, so baking soda is perfect for getting a rise quickly. 

Where Do I Find Baking Soda? How Do I Store It?

Typically, baking soda is found in the baking aisle at any grocery store. To keep it fresh, store it in a cool, dry place like your pantry or cupboard. 

Uses Other Than Cooking:

Baking soda is a versatile compound, with many uses outside of cooking. Baking soda is great at absorbing unwanted odors, so many people keep an open box of it in their refrigerator to keep it smelling fresh. Because of its grainy texture, baking soda makes a great scrub and cleaner for household items and can be helpful in dissolving built-up dirt and grime. 

Fun Fact About Baking Soda:

Baking soda is also a primary ingredient in fire extinguishers! The baking soda creates a foam that helps calm and extinguish flames. 

Did You Know?

Much of the baking soda that we use today is found in underground mines in Wyoming.

Recipes Using Baking Soda

Baking Soda Biscuits

Make a quick batch of biscuits with just five ingredients. To make them, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and butter. Combine until the flour and butter mixture is crumbly, and slowly add buttermilk. Spoon the dough onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

Irish Soda Bread

This Irish soda is made by combining eggs, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, and raisins to make a dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface and bake the bread in the oven in a baking dish or greased cast-iron skillet. If you don’t like raisins, try substituting for another dried fruit like dried figs.

Fried Fish

Make a batter for fried fish using flour, salt, baking soda, water, and vinegar. Take pieces of white fish, like cod, and dip into the batter. Fry the fish in a cast-iron skillet or an aluminum pan filled with oil until golden brown on the outside. Serve the fish with homemade french fries and malt vinegar for an authentic English fish and chips meal.

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