These two common household ingredients have similar names and appearance, making them hard to differentiate. And despite sometimes being added in the same recipe, it is worth noting that these two ingredients are chemically different, and it can come in handy to know the difference between the two.
Sodium bicarbonate or also known as baking soda is a base mineral which creates carbon dioxide when it is mixed with acidic ingredients. This means that whenever you add it to recipes, you will need something acidic to mix it with such as lemon juice, buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, brown sugar, tartar or cream.
It is also worth noting that baking soda is far stronger than baking powder, and gives off a metallic taste. Add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour in a recipe.
Baking powder on the other hand, is a combination of different acids, including baking soda, cream of tartar and cornstarch.
It is important to remember while cooking that the first leavening occurs when the baking powder gets wet, and the second one when the baking powder is heated. Remember, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of four in a recipe.
There are also recipes which require the use of both ingredients, and the reason why is to maintain balance, as the carbon dioxide created from the baking soda and certain acids don’t leaven the volume.
Keep in mind that both of these ingredients have expiration dates, so it is important that you use them fresh and change them at least every three months. If you are not sure how old are the ingredients, you can test their effectiveness by pouring 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar in a small bowl, and adding half a teaspoon of baking soda and stirring. If the baking soda is fresh, the mixture will quickly start bubbling.