Baking powder is a dry powdery substance with a smooth texture. It is a chemical leavening agent, made up of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3), cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate, C4H5KO6), and cornstarch. The baking soda reacts with the cream of tatar, releasing carbon dioxide gas into the dough or batter it is added. This results in bubbles in the wet mixture which makes it expand and thus leavens the mixture. Cornstarch is added to baking powder to prevent it from clumping. Baking powder is used as a substitute to yeast, in products where fermentation may cause undesirable flavours or where the batter cannot hold the gas bubbles for long. Baking powder is also used when a quick production of leavened products is needed. Baking powder was discovered by Alfred Bird, an English food manufacturer in 1843. Baking powders can be of two types: single acting and double acting. Single-acting baking powders when mixed with a liquid immediately release carbon dioxide. So doughs and batters leavened with this must be put in the oven immediately, before all of the carbon dioxide gets released, in order to achieve the desired rise. Double-acting baking powders react when it's first mixed with a liquid and then again when the dough or batter is heated. This double reaction produces a greater rise and hence, fluffier muffins, cakes and bread. Apart from this, baking powder has another variety by the name baker’s ammonia. It results in a light, spongy product but can leave an ammonia flavor. It is a good choice when making flat cookies. The ammonia dissipates as the cookies are baked.
Always buy branded, food-grade baking powder. Be sure it is free from moisture. Check the manufacturing and expiry date and choose between single-acting or double-acting baking powder as per the requirement.
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