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Baking Powder, Bicarbonate Of Soda, Or Baking Soda?

With all the extra time spent at home in the last couple of years, many people have taken up baking. From banana bread to sourdough, our social media feeds were full of our delicious baked creations during the lockdown.

Perhaps you have been inspired to don the apron after watching the Christmas Bake Off or have found that baking helps ease anxiety. Either way, you’re sure to have tasty goodies to enjoy at the end of it.

However, if you’re fairly new to the baking scene, you might have encountered a few obstacles, such as US measurements - how big is a cup? - or trying to figure out the difference between baking soda, bicarbonate of soda, and baking powder. Thankfully, we are here to help!

What is the difference between bicarbonate of soda and baking soda?

Bicarbonate of soda (sometimes called bicarb or bicarb soda) is a pure leavening agent, which are substances that cause the expansion of doughs and batters by releasing gasses within the mixture.

Bicarbonate of soda is an alkaline substance and is used in recipes that mix moisture with an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or chocolate together, to make the batter rise.

Baking soda is the very same thing, but while we call it bicarbonate of soda in the UK, US-based recipes tend to refer to it as baking soda.

However, baking powder is a very different substance.

Baking powder is bicarbonate of soda pre-mixed with a dry acidic ingredient that causes the dough to rise when mixed with wet ingredients. It is typically two parts cream of tartar to one part bicarbonate of soda. Adding moisture to the powder will cause it to release carbon dioxide which then aerates the mixture.

Bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are not interchangeable, as bicarb soda is much more powerful than baking powder, so you would have to amend a recipe if you needed to make substitutions.

With bicarb around three or four times stronger than baking powder, if the recipe asks for a teaspoon of baking powder, substitute it with half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. You will also need to add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to offset the bicarb.


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