The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Which leavening to use for which cookie?

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Which leavening to use for which cookie?

While perusing Michel Suas's "Advanced Bread and Pastry" for cookies, I noticed that some cookies used baking soda for leavening, some used baking powder and some used both. I couldn't see what determined which to use. I know that soda requires an acid, but I don't understand which ingredient(s) provide the acidity.


Here is a table of the ingredients used in three popular (with me at any rate) cookies. Will someone explain why each leaven was chosen?


Leavening vs Ingredients Among Popular Cookies

Ingredients Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Raisin Peanut Butter
Ingredients Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Raisin Peanut Butter
Butter x x x
Sugar x   x
Brown Sugar x x x
Eggs x x x
Vanilla Extract x x x
Peanut Butter     x
Bread Flour x x x
Baking Powder   x x
Baking Soda x x  
Salt x x x
Chocolate Chips x    
Rolled Oats   x  
Raisins   x  

thanks,

gary

charbono's picture
charbono

Brown sugar has molasses, which has acidity. 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Aha!  I was suspecting the chocolate and the raisins, but molasses works for me.


thanks,


gary

lazybaker's picture
lazybaker

I always use baking soda in cookies. Baking soda allows the cookies to expand and have a crispy texture.


I accidentally added baking powder to cookies before. The texture ended up cake-like and crumbly. The cookie fell apart.


Baking soda for cookies.


Baking powder for cakes.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Thanks, lazybaker. I'll add that for consideration. I've been strictly by the recipe, or grocery store refrigerated cookies 'til now. Learning the nuances may take a while.


cheers,


gary

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson


Baking soda for cookies.


Baking powder for cakes.



No, not at all.  Chemical leavening requires the chemical reaction of a base and an acid, which produces carbon dioxide.  Baking soda is a base and reacts with something acidic in the batter, like molasses, brown sugar, buttermilk, natural chocolate (NOT dutched), sour cream, etc.  If you don't have anything acidic in the batter, then you need baking powder, which contains both a base and an acid.  Very often, you have some amount of acid, but reacting it with a base is insufficient for the desired leavening, so you need baking soda AND baking powder.


Also, baking soda helps products brown better.  Even when there's nothing for the base to react with, adding a bit of baking soda helps the browning, but too much produces a soapy taste.  And baking soda helps cookies spread more.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

The issue is that I don't know which ingredients are acidic, or whether they are acidic enough. For the time being, I'll continue to rely on proven recipes. I seem to find only that soda does this or that, while powder does that or this; nowhere do I find a simple statement of why either should be used based on the other ingredients. That makes me crazy.


cheers,


gary

Jaydot's picture
Jaydot

No idea what the answer to you question is, sorry, but (assuming you have one), you could try using a sourdough starter as well.


I made oats&raisins cookies yesterday, based on a recipe that called for "bakpoeder" - not sure whether that's called baking soda or baking powder in english, but since I had neither, I added a dollop of my starter (and then let the dough/batter rest at room temp for over an hour). The cookies came out really well, and the taste is amazingly good. There's a photo on my blog.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

The recipe for oatmeal and raisin cookies that I have calls for both. I may give the sourdough idea a shot. Danke.


gary

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson


I seem to find only that soda does this or that, while powder does that or this; nowhere do I find a simple statement of why either should be used based on the other ingredients.


 



Didn't I provide a simple statement of why one should be used over another? I can't give you the exact ratios of baking soda to a particular acid, but you can find some rules of thumb on the internet.  If you're developing your own recipes, you'll probably have to experiment with optimal ratios.  FWIW, baking soda is about 4 times as powerful as an equivalent amount of baking powder, as long as there's an acid to react to.  That means that 1/2 tsp is equivalent to 2 tsp of baking powder.  Cookies (AND cakes) that contain brown sugar, natural cocoa, buttermilk and sour cream will contain some baking soda.  Those are the main acidic products.


 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Yes, you provided a short list (the more common ingredients) of acidics.  However, what I was talking about was that I haven't seen any sort of quantitative information regarding how to use acidics with what proportion of which chemical leaven.  There are recipes with acidics that use no soda, and others with the same acidics that use both soda and powder. What I'm looking for is the rationale.


I understand that each offers its own flavor profile, affects spread, leavening power, browning, and other factors. It's just that I've not found that good summary, or rules of thumb you mention, especially how much of what to use for a given acid source.


I will continue my search. I do appreciate your help, and it already has improved my understanding.


cheers,


gary

tgrayson's picture
tgrayson

I'd buy a Ph meter and determine how much baking soda it took to reach a Ph of 7 (neutral) for various ingredients.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I always thought heat had something to do with it.  Soda works basically cold and fast and the Cream of Tarter combined with soda (baking powder) give a heat driven rise with the Cream of tarter adding holding power or "set" to the product.  


The fun starts when you have recipes that ask for soda, baking powder and cream of tarter.  Ha!  :)


http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-baking-soda-and-baking-powder.htm 


A lot depends on how you like your cookie.  Say you put soda in it.  It will rise and fall upon removal from the oven (and depending on the moisture) resulting more often in a chewy cookie. Add Baking powder to the formula and the cookie will not fall as much upon removal from the oven resulting in a more cake like cookie.