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Bicarbonate of Soda

Asked by fruitcakefox. Answered on 2nd June 2012

Full question

Hi, I love Nigella's recipes but when it comes to cake, scone and other baking recipes bicarbonate of soda is sometimes used. My family and I don't like the taste of bicarbonate of soda and we can always taste it when it's been used in baked goodies. Can I subsitut bicarbonate of soda with baking powder? If yes, is the same amount of baking powder used as bicarb. or is a different quantity needed? If baking powder can't be used what can I use instead please? Thank you. Liz.

Our answer

Baking powder also contains bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). It is usually combined with cream of tartar - usually twice the quantity of cream of tartar to bicarbonate of soda. The cream of tartar is an acid so it reacts with the alkaline bicarbonate of soda to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. The cream of tartar will also neutralize the alkaline taste of the bicarbonate of soda.

If you were to switch bicarbonate of soda for baking powder then you would need to use quite large quantities to potentially get the same effect in your baked goods, particularly as commercial baking powders sometimes contain cornflour (cornstarch) or rice flour as well which will increase their bulk. So you may still find you are getting the taste of the bicarboante of soda, or a slightly metallic taste from too much baking powder.

If you find the taste of bicarbonate of soda too strong then you can try decreasing it slightly, though it will affect he rise of the finished cake or bread. Otherwise you could try adding a pinch of cream of tartar to help to neutralize the taste of the bicarbonate of soda, though again this may slightly affect the texture of the finished item.

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