Either you are a professional baker, or new, chances are, you will be dealing with leavening agents. For people who are not well-versed with the term, leavening agents are “agents” that generates that “rise” on the dough or batter. Out there, bakers use them in pretty much any bread and pastries that need to puff up when baked. Of course, there are three common leavening agents available in any markets. These are baking soda, baking powder, and of course, yeast. And they may be confused with one another. But in reality, they only do the same job: to raise the dough or batter to perfection.
But, what’s the difference between the three leavening agents? Good thing you asked since we have differentiated them from one another here. Thus, this will give you a much more in-depth idea on how to use them, and when to use them.
Yeast is almost synonymous with pretty much any bread that needs rising. But, the big question here is, what is yeast?
Yeasts are living organisms used for centuries as a common leavening agent. And these organisms eat the sugars in the dough and turn discharges carbon dioxide. Thus, this trapped gas is consist of microbubbles inside the mixture, which causes the dough to inflate. Yeast can be sold in stores, either fresh or dried form. Dried yeast needs to be “activated” first before using. And that is by mixing them with warm liquids such as milk or water. Sugars, such as honey, syrups, or any sugar, used to “feed” them, thus starting the reaction.
This reaction causes the formation of gluten in bread, as well as adding that savory flavor in them. During baking, yeast also helps in strengthening the elasticity of the dough. Thus, this, in turn, gives the bread that chewy texture, as well as that fluff after baking.
Other common leavening agents are the Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate. And they are usually mixed in baking cakes and pastries.
We know in chemistry class that baking soda is a base, so that means it reacts with acids found in dough or batter. This chemical reaction triggers the creation of gas (carbon dioxide) in the mixture. And batter, thus fluffing them up.
A few tips about using this substance: baking soda increases the pH of the batter. Thus, making it more viscous to produce softer baked goods. Also, baking soda is more powerful than baking powder (about four times stronger). So that means if you want to substitute baking powder with baking soda, use only a fourth of the original amount.
Baking Powder is one of the leavening agents that uses its chemical reaction that usually triggered by heat to raise the batter. This powder is a mixture of a dry acid (cream of tartar) and baking soda. And sometimes cornstarch to help neutralize the acidity of the two. Thus, preventing from the chemical reaction, until liquid is poured. And that is why pastries puff up during the cooking process.
Single-acting and double-acting baking powder are its two types and the latter is the one most commonly used.
This leavening agent is usually used on recipes that do not involve acids. The usual recipes that call for baking powder include cupcakes and some cakes.
Other Leavening Agents That Causes Baked Goods Rise
Other leavening agents aside from the three mentioned above are:
- Sourdough Starter – a combination of yeast and living bacteria
- Kefir (fermented milk drink),
- Beaten Eggs,
- Unpasteurized beer and
Sometimes, the way how the dough is baked can be a significant factor in the dough’s rise, such as steaming them.
Also, mechanical leavening agents are another type of leavening agents. Thus, it is releasing the gasses which already in the product. Such examples are whipped heavy cream and beaten egg whites. And most notably used in sans rival, souffles and meringue.
Leavening agents add that puffiness to our bread and pastries. And also it gives that beautiful color, texture, and taste of the dough or batter when baked. So the next time you bake something and wants it to rise, then leavening agents will be your best bet for that.