9 Stunning Uses for Baking Soda in Fine Cooking
If your oven does more roasts and pizzas and braises than cookies, bread and cakes combined, you might still have a box of baking soda lying around. Well, most likely under the kitchen sink. Perhaps you have it tucked behind your refrigerator for when things get a tad smelly in there, no?
Maybe you use it as a teeth whitener, to scrape the tarnish off of that dull jewelry or to banish the killer whiff off of thooose sneakers.
Hell, you can tap into baking soda paste, get down and scrub down a messy grill or kitchen or bathroom floor.
Right about right, huh?
A whole bunch of baking soda uses other than what it’s really good at; puffing out the best baked goods.
Using baking soda for baking wasn’t always this obvious, though:
Around 1975, our grannies would wait up and kill time watching over yeast as it knock itself out trying to leaven bread, cookies, cakes, and everything fresh baked goods. Took hours (sometimes way longer) on edge and that must’ve hurt.
Then time killed time, and these little theaters irked out instant leavening results (you know, like Facebook Likes) in baking soda uses.
Then baking soda happened.
Here are some baking soda kitchen hacks you might not have known:
- Want to bake biscuits and cakes that are more even from edge to center? Baking soda allows your eggs to spread out nice before the protein and gluten sets.
- Helps brown your best recipes within no time and brings out the deep flavors you so much want—speeding the Maillard Reaction
- Think you have too many lumps in your batter? Spill in a teaspoon of vinegar and a pinch of baking soda to improve consistency
- Want your rice fluffier? Adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water should do the trick
- For fluffier Omelets, add a half teaspoon for every three eggs ( the same amount works great for softer buttermilk waffles). The alkalinity of baking soda weakens gluten, offering a softer, more drool-worthy snacks
- Did you just drench your recipe with a tad too much vinegar? Adding a pinch of baking soda should help neutralize the over-effect
What Is Baking Soda Made of?
Put more precisely, what is baking soda? Alright, grab your nerdy glasses, we are about to drop some science here for this Chemistry 101.
Baking soda is in actual form, a rock—sodium carbonate.
It’s ground to an alkaline powder form which when mixed with an acid, pops off water and a cloud of Carbon IV Oxide—Ahem, carbon dioxide.
If you are just getting your hands powdered with using baking soda, ever wondered why those crunchy recipes recommend brown sugar, honey, milk, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar, and so forth on top of water for baking batter?
Because all these fluids are acidic, when you mix them up with baking soda and stir, the batter or dough reacts to produce bubbles of carbon dioxide gas and a bit of moisture. Should you fear for your life?
Absolutely not, fortunately.
It’s the “carbon dioxide effect” that makes baking soda all the more important in baking. As it bubbles up (and you knead it), traces of the gas are trapped inside the hardening batter.
Here’s the best part:
When you finally swank your batter in the oven, the heated gas makes the dough to lift as the carbon dioxide pretty much staggers to seek out a fire exit. The lift is responsible for those fluffy cake layers, we all love so much. That also means depending on how much baking soda you sprinkle, you get your cakes to leaven up as you’d like.
There’s one thing to always keep in mind, though:
Whenever you use baking soda as the cornerstone of your desserts splurge, you’ll want to be quite close to the oven.
As our little nerd-glasses-on escapade turned out, as soon as you mix an acid with baking soda the reaction starts to rock at the core, so you need to get your dough in the oven as soon as possible if you are to have enough carbon dioxide spewing out at the right spot to help lift your muffins, cakes, and so on.
That’s it. Chemistry 101 is done. Wake up, everyone.
On to more interesting art and science now…
What’s The Difference between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?
One of the most asked question at My Delicious Homemade is whether baking soda and baking powder are the same thing—or a version of this:
“Can I use baking powder instead of baking soda?”
Well, both baking soda and baking powder are made up of the same core mineral; sodium bicarbonate. But while baking soda is a pure form of sodium bicarbonate, baking powder comprises sodium bicarbonate and a powdered acid.
Often the powdered acid is the cream of tartar and acts as a stabilizer, which ensures baking powder does not react impromptu—unless you intentionally add moisture to the mix.
And even when you do, baking powder takes it time before popping and fizzing out. How long that takes will depend on what type of baking powder you grab at the store.
We cranked out a more in-depth piece on baking powder here for more on types of baking powder.
For a sec there I thought we were going to geek out, again.
But the most powerful differences between baking powder and baking soda are:
- While baking soda starts to react immediately you mix it with an acid (the likes of buttermilk, honey, lemon squeeze, etc), baking powder reacts when you add moisture to it (and often after heating it)
- Baking powder allows you to let your dough sit, achieve a “cold-lift” and you still get a satisfying “heat-lift” after popping the dough into the oven.
With baking soda, the longer you wait outside the gates of a heated oven, the more you are likely to have yourself a bunch of flabby, pale-looking baked goods.
What a mess!
- Natural baking soda is a frigging 3-4 time stronger than baking powder.
You’ll want to keep that in mind next time you drench your batter in baking soda—innocently hoping it fetches you an even better lift.
Go too far with it and what you get is a tainted, mineral-tasting concoction in your wake, so please don’t try this at home.
At My Delicious Homemade, we usually suffice with just ¼ teaspoonful of baking soda for every one standard cup of flour. The trick is to follow your recipe.
What you want to achieve is strike a balance between baking soda and acid amount.
That way, when the balanced levels react no excess baking soda residue shows up in time to mess your otherwise crispy baked products.
Here’s a snack-ish video to munch on by Business Insider:
Hurray! The clip even shows you how to test whether your baking soda is usable and how to test for good baking powder.
- From experience, baking powder is better to use if you want more spread (buttermilk pancakes anyone?), while baking soda works best for even raises.
- Also, if you just loooove cooked and browned food, baking soda is your friend. Period.
Speaking of incredible cooking…
8 Fantastic Baking Soda Hacks You Need to Know
With the basics laid out, how about we get right into it and find out how to make your home-cooking delicious homemade.
Here’s what you might have wanted to do with baking soda (apart from scrubbing floors) but haven’t yet or might want to discover.
When do you need to use both baking powder and baking soda?
You’ve probably done it before:
You either mixed up baking powder and baking soda where they were not supposed to mingle or messed the whole baking process by drowning it in excess amounts of either.
Are you wondering why some recipes call for using both?
It is not just for leavening.
Sometimes your recipe calls for more leavening agent (baking soda) than it does for the acid—fluffy pancakes as a scrumptious example.
A superior raise calls for more leavening agent (baking soda). But less acid in the recipe means you are more likely to have a soapy, mineral taste leftover from the un-reacted leavening agent.
The natural step to help achieve balance here is to use both baking soda and baking powder.
We have messed a ton trying to find the right mix-matches, so for best results, you might want to stick to your recipe. But if you are willing to experiment, and do not mind throwing the shocking end product away, go ahead.
And hey, while you are at it…
Use baking soda to leaven your dough in a heated oven if you have no baking powder left
You might be glad to know you can still use baking soda to leaven baked goods without soaping the finished desserts with a mineral aftertaste.
Simply ensure you neutralize the baking soda/leavening agent with an acid. Feel free to use molasses, brown sugar, yogurt, applesauce, vinegar, natural cocoa powder, and sour cream (if you want to spank in a little tanginess in there).
But if you suspect (hell, it happens) either of these acids will impart the flavor of your fresh baked goods, you could opt for cream of tartar right out the gate instead.
You can easily find it in your store’s spice aisle and pretty much everywhere “kitchen goods”.
What do you do if a recipe calls for self-raising or cake flour while all you got is an all-purpose packet in hand?
Wondering how to make the fluffiest pancakes (or other crispy baked goods) in this kitchen conundrum?
The first thing to note is that cake, self-raising and all-purpose flours are not the same.
For one, cake flour does not contain leaveners (forms of baking soda) as in the latter two. It also contains less gluten than all purpose flour, if you want less gluten for your vegan diet or weight loss plan.
Cake flour contains less gluten than all-purpose baking flour
In one of My Delicious Homemade top video recipes, we show you how to make faux cake flour.
- Simply measure out the flour
- Then for every cup of all-purpose flour remove 2 teaspoons
- Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch for every cup of all-purpose flour
- Sift the mixture, and you are all set to bake
What if you have self-raising flour, instead?
Take your flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt to boost.
If you only have baking soda, you’ll need to chunk down to adding a ¼ teaspoon to the self-raising flour mixture—more than that and you have a metallic taste in your mouth.
Use baking soda to soften, brown and add tang to pretzels
Our friends over at Real Simple made a handy clip to show you how to use baking soda to spin some awesome, chewy pretzel bites. Comes out yummy-golden and appetizing good.
Go on and serve the delicacy with your choice of dipping (melted butter or mustard) and roll it in cinnamon sugar for that extra kick—a scrumptious match made in heaven.
Also, you can opt to sprinkle baking soda into your ready pizza dough to add a touch of tanginess and browning, if you want.
Use baking soda to turn spaghetti into ramen noodles
In the mood for some yummy-fresh ramen noodles but have no ramen to boot?
Not to worry, if you want to turn pasta into ramen noodles, Nikki of Serious Eats recommends you do this:
If you plan to add the noodles to a mild broth, then for every quart of water you’ll want to add only 2 teaspoons of baking soda. More than that and you might spoil the broth with a tart taste and soapy aftertaste.
Get it right and the only sound you’ll hear is the moan you’ll let out when you finally taste this thing. This is the closest you’ll come with spaghetti to making fresh ramen noodles without ramen noodles.
Use baking soda for crisper shrimp
Want the full lowdown on turning those shrimp cocktails, wontons and skewers into fantastic servings?
Try this shrimp baking soda hack:
- Add a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for every pound of shrimp
- Then a teaspoon of kosher salt (most preferred but well…)
- Toss in a pan for a few moments
- Now set the shrimp in the refrigerator for between 15 and 60 minutes (your call), and nothing quite taste like it.
You are free if you want to try applying direct heat (makes out the flavor in all its glory), but feel free to use this technique when either searing or poaching as well. The kosher salt comes in handy for keeping the shrimp luscious and darn right inviting.
How to caramelize onions a lot faster with baking soda
If you are particular about caramelizing your onions, you’ll hate to admit getting the right brown just right sometimes takes you hours—a long wait you don’t have to slave through no more.
Whip out your onions. And for every pound of those, add a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in and stir. This takes only a few minutes to brown your onions, most likely as particularly as you like them for your particular cooking taste.
But as we’ve mentioned before, you’ll want to keep the baking soda serving on the stingy end of that teaspoon. Otherwise, a lot of that sodium bicarbonate will impart the taste of some servings.
Wait, there’s more…
How about a delicious serving of buffalo wings to knock out your oven-baked, crispy-craving
A soggy buffalo wing is a sloppy piece of meal. A crunchy buffalo wing on the other hand…
By using baking soda you can expertly drain the moisture off your skin-on chicken and make for addictive pieces of meal.
Here’s a motion picture to help you with it:
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Wait, use baking soda for weight loss?
Last but not least:
If you are hot on the heels and want to keep that waistline trimmed, baking soda could just help you with that—two words; sweet cravings.
Cravings sweets is one of the culprits that land most of us in trouble with unhealthy calories. How do you kill it off?
- Warm a glass of water
- Add 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Rinse your mouth with the solution
- You’ll not want to swallow that. We doubt you can, anyway
- That’s how you lose a craving for sweets
And that’s it!
The hacks we’ve pinned up here detail just how much more handy your cooking would be if you gave it a nice spanking of baking soda.
The thing to keep in mind is even a little too much baking soda is bad for your cooking. It leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Hopefully, that’s not your aftertaste story anymore after reading this baking soda hacks guide.
At My Delicious Homemade, we are always ecstatic to hear your side of the story, new hacks that worked for you, and everything fine cooking. So feel free to jump on in the comments and enjoy a good brainstorming, shall we?