Baking Powder’s Role in Baked Goods

Baking powder works as a chemical leavening agent in baked goods.

You know what a fascinating ingredient is? Baking powder. Why? Because it just sits in your formula UNTIL water is added. This activates a reaction, turning baking powder into a chemical leavening agent.

What’s the reaction?

When water mixes with the acid (often MCP, SAPP, SALP, SAS or tartaric acid—although phosphate-free varieties are available), carbon dioxide gas is released. This aerates the dough or batter, creating a fine grain and quality texture.  Just keep in mind that baking powder will impact the final product’s pH.

Baking powder is classified by it’s reaction rate:

  • Fast-acting: releases most of its potential gas volume during the first few minutes of contact with liquid, imposing the need for fairly rapid processing of the dough or batter to avoid excessive volume loss.
  • Slow-acting: releases almost none of its gas volume at low temperatures and requires oven heat to achieve complete reaction.
  • Double-acting: reacts partially at low temperatures to form smooth-flowing batters, but typically requires high temperatures for complete reaction.

Double-acting is more common and means that the baking powder contains a combination of leavening acids that will release gas during the mixing and again during baking.

There are a variety of baking powders on the market, allowing for use in a wide range of applications. Things to consider when choosing a baking powder are reaction time, single- vs. double-acting in relation to the processing time, and baking temperature/time for the product.


About the Author:

Lin Carson, PhD
Dr. Lin Carson’s love affair with baking started over 25 years ago when she earned her BSc degree in Food Science & Technology at the Ohio State University. She went on to earn her MSc then PhD from the Department of Grain Science at Kansas State University. Seeing that technical information was not freely shared in the baking industry, Dr. Lin decided to launch BAKERpedia to cover this gap. Today, as the world’s only FREE and comprehensive online technical resource for the commercial baking industry, BAKERpedia is used by over half a million commercial bakers, ingredient sellers, equipment suppliers and baking entrepreneurs annually. You can catch Dr. Lin regularly on the BAKED In Science podcast solving baking problems. For more information on Dr. Lin, subscribe to her "Ask Dr. Lin" YouTube Channel, or follow her on LinkedIn.

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