For culinary purposes, Baking Powder and Baking Soda are classed as leavening agents, and can therefore be grouped in with ingredients such as yeast. However, it should be noted that these are chemicals or chemical compounds and as such, should be considered as chemical additives. It is also important to remember that in most recipes, you cannot use baking soda if the recipe calls for baking powder due to the different way in which they chemically react in order to produce the rise required and it's safer by far not to try to substitute either one for the other.


For this reason, we are going to start this section, not with the history as in most of the Ingredient of the Month sections, but with an explanation of exactly what they are and how they work.


What is Baking Powder and Baking Soda?


Baking Soda is pure Sodium Bicarbonate, also called Bicarbonate of Soda (NaHCO3). It is a white crystalline alkali which reacts by effervescing (fizzing) when it comes into contact with acids, thus producing gasses, namely carbon dioxide. Because of this chemical reaction, it is often used in fizzy drinks and antacid remedies and it's precisely this reaction which facilitates the rising action in baked goods.


Baking Powder is more complex. It is composite of Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda), one or more acid salts such as Cream of Tartar (Tartaric Acid), Sodium Aluminium Sulphate, Calcium Acid Phosphate plus a drying agent such as cornflour and the exact mix determines whether it is "Single" or "Double" acting. The difference between baking soda, single and double acting baking powders, is when the chemical reactions actually take place, and is explained below. However, the rising principal is the same in that a chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide bubbles which expand through the cooking mixture.


What's the difference?


When using baking soda, the mixture to which it is being added must contain some sort of acid, often in the form of honey, molasses, brown sugar, sour cream, yoghurt, cocoa, citrus juice or fruits. The chemical reaction takes place as soon as it is added to the acid ingredient in the mixing bowl. This means you have to work swiftly and get the mixture into the oven as soon as possible before the carbon dioxide starts to dissipate, which they will quite quickly. (Think back to those fizzy drinks once they've been poured into a glass - that initial burst of fizz soon dies down to a little murmur).


When using "Single Acting" baking powder, the chemical reaction, once again, takes place in the bowl at the mixing stage, with the catalyst being any liquid as opposed to an acid, so the same applies as to the speed at which you get the mixture into the oven. Remember, the acid is already present in the baking powder usually in the form of Cream of Tartar: it just needs to be triggered off by the addition of moisture (water, milk etc).


"Double Acting" baking powder adds another dimension. Not only does it start reacting in the bowl as with baking soda and "single acting" baking powder, but it also reacts a second time when it is cooked. This is achieved by the addition of slower reacting acids to the single acting baking powder, which hardly react at room temperature. These only become active once they achieve higher temperatures. So it has a double action - once when subjected to moisture in the bowl and once when subjected to heat in the oven. This quality means that the rush to mix and get it into the oven is avoided, which is especially useful if there are many ingredients which need thorough blending.



Food historians believe the use of baking soda dates back to ancient civilization and it is perhaps this age-old use of it which has prevented its demise as a chemical additive.


Until the late 1700's, yeast was the main leavening ingredient used. However once it became widely accepted that bicarbonate of soda would create carbon dioxide gas in the presence of certain acids, housewives began making their own chemical leavening. Although the rising process was faster, it was a little hit and miss due to the majority of the leavening gases being released in the bowl (at the bench stage).


By 1835 the first baking powder compound had been created with the addition of Cream of Tartar. It was found that it gave more consistent results although it was more expensive than bicarbonate of soda and had a shorter shelf life. Experimentation continued and by the 1850s the Cream of Tartar was replaced with calcium phosphate which, whilst cheaper than Cream of Tartar, still produced most of the gas at the bench stage. The first Modern day, commercially prepared baking powder was born.


However, it wasn't until 1885 when sodium aluminium sulphate was discovered. This acid reacted only when heat was applied. The combination of Bicarbonate of Soda, different acids plus cornflour to keep the mixture more viable in storage, revolutionised baking powder.


Of course, that wasn't the end of it. Not only was baking powder added to flour to create Self Raising Flour, but also further refinements and experimentation have taken place over the years and today, we are left with a stable and dependable product.

Baking Soda and Baking Powder in cooking


One of the oldest usages of baking powder/soda is in the making of Soda Bread which is widely associated with Ireland. This is a leavened bread which, because of the use of baking soda/powder rather than yeast can be very quickly made cutting out the need for heavy kneading or proving time. This makes up for the fact that it doesn't keep fresh for very long.


Another old use is the addition of baking soda when cooking green vegetables in order to keep them greener. However this is no longer encouraged as it has been found that vitamins B1 and C are lost through this practice. 


By far the most popular use of these ingredients is in cakes and baked goods as a leavening agent,  however another, lesser known use is to lighten certain batters, in particular tempura batters which are required to be ultra light, crisp and thin.


General tips

Do not be tempted to add more baking powder or soda than a recipe suggests as not only can too much cause the mixture to taste bitter but it can also cause the mixture to rise too rapidly so that the air bubbles grow too large and burst causing the mixture to fall. Having said that, too little baking powder or soda results in a tough end product that has a poor close grained texture.


Baking powder is a leavening agent composed of baking soda and one or more acidic salts, such as tartaric acid (cream of tartar) or dicalcium phosphate dihydrate. As the baking powder disolves, the baking soda reacts with the acids to produce carbon dioxide gas bubbles, which are trapped by the dough around them. Baking powder is used in recipes where the pH is 7, or neutral, and pure baking soda would fail to produce bubbles.

Most baking powders are double action baking powder, which means they have two or more acids in them, one to react and create the carbon dioxide at room temperature, and one that will not react to create the bubbles until the temperature is elevated, in the oven.

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On examination it will be seen that we still may have an aspect of reform to achieve. We had better accept our position and call to be reformers and set ourselves in a position to do all that the Lord requires of us as we should desire the best results for our personal health, and that of our children etc physically, mentally and spiritually.


We should want to set a proper example in all things and to teach such that will teach all, leaving nothing out.


Poor cookery is wearing away the life energies of thousands. More souls are lost from this cause than many realize. It deranges the system and produces disease. In the condition thus induced, heavenly things cannot be readily discerned. {CTBH 48.3}

Some do not feel that it is a religious duty to prepare food properly; hence they do not try to learn how. They let the bread sour before baking, and the saleratus added to remedy the cook's carelessness, makes it totally unfit for the human stomach. It requires thought and care to make good bread. But there is more religion in a good loaf of bread than many think. Food can be prepared simply and healthfully, but it requires skill to make it both palatable and nourishing. In order to learn how to cook, women should study, and then patiently reduce what they learn to practice. People are suffering because they will not take the trouble to do this. I say to such, It is time for you to rouse your dormant energies, and inform yourselves. Do not think the time wasted which is devoted to obtaining a thorough knowledge and experience in the preparation of healthful, palatable food. No matter how long an experience you have had in cooking, if you still have the responsibilities of a family, it is your duty to learn how to care for them properly. If necessary, go to some good cook, and put yourself under her instruction until you are mistress of the art. {CTBH 49.1}

A wrong course of eating or drinking destroys health, and with it the sweetness of life. O, how many times has a good meal, as it is called, been purchased at the expense of sleep and quiet rest! Thousands, by indulging a perverted appetite, have brought on fever or some other acute disease, which has resulted in death. That was enjoyment purchased at an immense cost. {CTBH 49.2}

Because it is wrong to eat merely to gratify a perverted taste, it does not follow that we should be indifferent in regard to our food. It is a matter of the highest





Use of Soda in Bread


(1905) M.H. 300-302

496. The use of soda or baking powder in breadmaking is harmful and unnecessary. Soda causes inflammation of the stomach and often poisons the entire system. Many housewives think that they cannot make good bread without soda, but this is an error. If they would take the trouble to learn better methods, their bread would be more wholesome, and, to a natural taste, it would be more palatable.



Using Milk in Yeast Bread


In the making of raised or yeast bread, milk should not be used in the place of water. The use of milk is an additional expense, and it makes the bread much less wholesome. Milk bread does not keep sweet so long after baking as does that made with water, and it ferments more readily in the stomach. {CD 316.3}


Hot Yeast Bread


Bread should be light and sweet. Not the least taint of sourness should be tolerated. The loaves should be small, and so thoroughly baked that, as far as possible, the yeast germs shall be destroyed. When hot, or new, raised bread of any kind is difficult of digestion. It should never appear on the table. This rule does not, however, apply to


unleavened bread. Fresh rolls made of wheaten meal, without yeast or leaven, and baked in a well-heated oven, are both wholesome and palatable. . . . {CD 316.4}




Zwieback, or twice-baked bread, is one of the most easily digested and most palatable of foods. Let ordinary raised bread be cut in slices and dried in a warm oven till the last trace of moisture disappears. Then let it be browned slightly all the way through. In a dry place this bread can be kept much longer than ordinary bread, and if reheated before using, it will be as fresh as when new.




Old Bread Preferable to Fresh


Letter 142, 1900

497. Bread which is two or three days old is more healthful than new bread. Bread dried in the oven is one of the most wholesome articles of diet. {CD 317.2}


Gems and Rolls


R. & H., May 8, 1883

503. Hot biscuit raised with soda or baking powder should never appear upon our tables. Such compounds are unfit to enter the stomach. Hot raised bread of any kind is difficult of digestion. Graham gems, which are both wholesome and palatable, may be made from the unbolted flour,


mixed with pure cold water and milk. But it is difficult to teach our people simplicity. When we recommend graham gems, our friends say, "Oh, yes, we know how to make them." We are much disappointed when they appear raised with baking powder or with sour milk and soda. These give no evidence of reform. The unbolted flour, mixed with pure soft water and milk, makes the best gems we have ever tasted. If the water is hard, use more sweet milk, or add an egg to the batter. Gems should be thoroughly baked in a well-heated oven, with a steady fire. {CD 319.5}

To make rolls, use soft water and milk, or a little cream; make a stiff dough and knead it as for crackers. Bake on the grate of the oven. These are sweet and delicious. They require thorough mastication, which is a benefit to both the teeth and the stomach. They make good blood, and impart strength. With such bread, and the abundant fruits, vegetables, and grains with which our country abounds, no greater luxuries should be desired. {CD 320.1}


Whole-Wheat Bread Better Than White


(1868) 2T 68

504. Fine-flour bread cannot impart to the system the nourishment that you will find in the unbolted-wheat bread. The common use of bolted-wheat bread cannot keep the system in a healthy condition. You both have inactive livers. The use of fine flour aggravates the difficulties under which you are laboring. {CD 320.2}


(1905) M.H. 300

505. For use in breadmaking, the superfine white flour is not the best. Its use is neither healthful nor economical. Fine-flour bread is lacking in nutritive elements to be found in bread made from the whole wheat. It is a frequent cause of constipation and other unhealthful conditions.






{CD 320.3}


Grains in Bread May Be Varied


Letter 91, 1898

506. All wheat flour is not best for a continuous diet. A mixture of wheat, oatmeal, and rye would be more nutritious than the wheat with the nutrifying properties separated from it. {CD 321.1}


Sweet Breads


Letter 363, 1907

507. Sweet breads and cookies we seldom have on our table. The less of sweet foods that are eaten, the better; these cause disturbances in the stomach, and produce impatience and irritability in those who accustom themselves to their use. {CD 321.2}

Letter 37, 1901

508. It is well to leave sugar out of the crackers that are made. Some enjoy best the sweetest crackers, but these are an injury to the digestive organs.




Letter 37, 1901

572. At one time Doctor ----- tried to teach our family to cook according to health reform, as he viewed it, without salt or anything else to season the food. Well, I determined to try it, but I became so reduced in strength that I had to make a change; and a different policy was entered upon with great success. I tell you this because I know that you are in positive danger. Food should be prepared in such a way that it will be nourishing. It should not be robbed of that which the system needs. . . . {CD 344.3}

I use some salt, and always have, because from the light given me by God, this article, in the place of being deleterious, is actually essential for the blood. The whys and wherefores of this I know not, but I give you the instruction as it is given me.