Chemical Leavening Agents

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Compounds, produced from chemicals, that are used as leavens for a wide range of baked goods. Baking soda and baking powder are among the most often used chemical leavens. Breads using chemical agents for leavening are known as, “quick breads,” because of the rapid rate of the rising action and the short preparation time required. Chemical leavening agents react immediately when combined with a liquid; therefore, they are mixed with the other dry ingredients before any liquid ingredients are added. Chemical leavening agents allow bread dough to be prepared in minutes instead of hours.

The chemical leavening agent, baking powder, is a mixture of baking soda, an alkaline ingredient; cream of tartar, an acidic ingredient; and a starch, such as cornstarch, which prevents clumping of the powder. It is most often used in quick bread recipes that contain no acidic ingredients. It reacts immediately when added to liquids. Baking powder is often referred to as; “double acting baking powder,” because it causes two separate rising actions to occur in the dough or batter. The first reaction occurs when the baking powder is mixed with liquid ingredients causing carbon dioxide gas to be produced, which causes the batter or dough to rise. The second reaction occurs when heat is applied during the baking process, which causes further expansion.

Baking soda is an alkaline leavening agent made of sodium bicarbonate that reacts immediately when combined with a liquid. In most quick bread recipes, the baking soda is mixed with the other dry ingredients before any liquid ingredients are added. In order for baking soda to work properly as a leavening agent, it must be used in recipes that contain acidic ingredients, such as molasses, buttermilk, or chocolate. The chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas, which cause the batter or dough to rise.

Cream of tartar is also used as a leaven. It is an acidic ingredient that is often used in conjunction with baking soda, which is an alkaline ingredient.

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