Baking is a science. This I came to learn while trying to understand the difference between baking powder and baking soda. You see how cakes and breads rise is all about how the rising agents react with the other ingredients one is baking with. That is the science behind baking. In short raising (or leavening) agents make your cakes and breads rise, your mousse and soufflé light and fluffy. The most common raising agents are: baking powder, baking soda, yeast and eggs.
Let me apologise early for the long sciency post, happy learning!!


Baking Powder
This is made up of baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda, starch (potato or corn) and an acid (cream of tartar). Usually baking powder contains about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for each teaspoon.
Baking powder-leavened goods are generally lighter and fluffier than those that rely on baking soda alone because the carbon dioxide is released twice, 1st when it comes to contact with moisture, then when it comes into contact with heat
You can substitute baking powder with baking soda, for every teaspoon of baking powder use ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
If you run out of self-raising flour and add 1-2 teaspoons per cup of flour to the flour and mix before using it the recipe as normal.
Baking Soda
Also known as Sodium Bicarbonate or Bicarbonate of Soda. When heated the sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide that makes breads and cakes rise. It also produces sodium carbonate which tastes really bad that’s why you have to mix in an acid like lemon or sour milk, cocoa, buttermilk etc in order to neutralize this taste. And also aid in the release of the carbon dioxide.
This means that if your cake calls for baking soda and butter milk and you decide to substitute with regular milk, it will not rise.
Baking soda also helps with the browning of the cake. Therefore you need to use just enough otherwise your cake will be too brown. Remember baking is a science
Because baking soda reacts with the acid immediately it is mixed one has to bake the cake or pancakes immediately. If this is not done the results will be a chewy
You can substitute baking soda and baking powder as long as there is an acid in the ingredients

Yeast
Yeast is a natural raising agent. It takes about 2 hours using fresh, active dry, or, instant active dry yeast, for the bread to complete this proving stage. Yeast converts the fermentable sugars present in the flour/dough into the gas carbon dioxide. The baking process stops the action of yeast cells by killing them giving the baked product a soft and spongy texture.
Yeast needs sugar to grow and a warm environment. You can mix your dough with WARM liquid not hot, as hot liquid will kill the yeast.
You can substitute baking powder for yeast but the taste and texture will not be the same.
There are three types of yeast; fresh yeast, instant yeast and active dry yeast
Fresh yeast: used by profestional baker. I was told I can get this in nakumatt highridge but have never gone to check. If your recipe calls for the divide the quantity by 3 if you want to substitute with instant yeast
Instant yeast (quick rise or rapid rise): more potent that active dry yeast and can directly be mixed to your dry ingredients.
Active dry yeast: works just like instant yeast but needs to be activated using warm water first
If your finished product has a strong unpleasant alcohol smell or tasty a bit tangy when done then the dough overfermented. This can happen if you let it rise for too long or overnight in the fridge, if the dough was too warm,
Eggs
Yes eggs. I did not know this till a few years ago when I wanted to bake a small cake but I did not have baking powder.
For this to work you really have to beat the eggs that way incorporating a lot of air into the eggs. This is, together with the protein components , is what will help the cake rise. Beating the eggs incorporates air, which is evident with the increase in volume. The beating also denatures the protein in the eggs, which changes the shape and allows air to be trapped between the proteins. If what you want is a light, air filled texture then mechanical raising agents (like beaten eggs) are important eg for mousse and soufflé

Written by Wangeci Wandere cici