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Baking powder: baking soda ratio in acidic recipes


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I was making Bradley Ogden's buttermilk lemon souffle pancakes yesterday (excellent, esp w/homemade meyer lemon curd) and I thought it was strange that a batter with buttermilk and lemon juice would use 100% baking powder for leavening. Is there any rationale for this? Is it because of the double-action that acid + baking soda can't replicate? Would there be any advantage in subbing some baking soda for some of the baking powder in a recipe like this?

Ingredients list:

1/2 c AP Flour

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp superfine sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c buttermilk

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 2 lemons

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp melted unsalted butter

2 egg whites (beaten)

From this book.

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My theory on this (and the reason I often tweak recipes in this direction) is that the base reacting with the acid in the buttermilk dulls the flavor of the buttermilk: I want the batter to be acidic, so I don't want to react the acid with a base. I often reduce the amount of baking soda called for in buttermilk-based recipes and cheat up the quantity of baking powder.

Chris Hennes
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I can only give you the rationale for higher altitudes, where the faster action of the acid + soda combo causes the rise to occur too quickly, and hence the final product to collapse. Baking powder is slower acting, and thus better for applications such as this where a leaven that happened too early in the cooking process (or even in the beating process) could destroy the outcome.

If it worked for you and was tasty, I'd leave it be.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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It may also simply have to do with them being pancakes. Unlike a cake where the whole batch gets poured into a pan and baked immediately, pancakes get doled out and cooked ladled-full by ladle-full. Sometimes the batter is held for a fairly long period of time, and baking powder just works better in these situations.

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I make buttermilk (or yoghurt) pancakes all the time with 1/4 teaspoon soda and 2 tsp bp (for 1 cup flour). It works great, nice acid flavor, fluffy. Been doing it for years with no problems.

You could try your next batch with a pinch of soda and see if there's any difference.

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