Leavening in the Kitchen: Baking Soda and Baking Powder

Baking soda and baking powder are used in all sorts of baked goods including cookies, cakes, and muffins. They can be used independently or in conjunction. And although they both contain the word “baking” and produce carbon dioxide to help leaven our bakes, there are differences that are crucial to understanding how they work in a recipe.

Leavening in the Kitchen: Incorporating Air

In the introduction to leavening, we discussed how gases in our batters and doughs expand to add volume and tenderness to our baked goods. Over the next few posts, we’ll explore how those gases get there in the first place. Today, we’re talking about air, which is the foundation of all leavening. It’s easy to see air’s role in meringues and sponge cakes, where it’s beaten in for volume and fluffiness. But air is crucial to the success of other leaveners like baking soda, steam, and yeast. In this post, we’ll explore what air is, how we use it, and how it behaves in the kitchen.

Leavening: An Introduction to Gases

What’s the difference between a light, fluffy cake and a short, dense one? A flaky pie crust and a tough cracker? The answer lies in leavening. Leavening agents lift and expand batters and doughs to make fluffy cakes, flaky pastry, and light bread. There are several leaveners: air, baking soda, yeast, and steam are a few of the most common in the home kitchen. In this post, we’ll explore how all leaveners work. Then, we’ll dive deeper into specific leaveners in the next few posts.

Maple Walnut Snapdoodles

Over the last few posts, we discussed the effects of sugar on cookie spread and texture. For this recipe, I played around with maple syrup, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. I also experimented with oven temperature. The result is these Maple Walnut Snapdoodles, one cookie dough that can be crunchy or chewy depending on the oven temperature. In addition to the recipe, I’ll share some of the test batches. We’ll talk about the changes I made, the results of each batch, and the science behind it all.