We all know how delicious those superfoods can be especially when cacao and chia meet, marry and have baby muffins with a whole bunch of other stuff. Now if you’re of the gluten free variety and ditching the spelt, wheat and other rising stars then chances are you might be sprinkling a few pinches of baking powder or cream of tartar into your magical mix.
So let me level the playing field when it comes to chemical leavening. You’ll need to have your science hat on for this. OK?
According to my main man on the shelf Harold McGee – no relation to Bobby – and his wonderful world of On Food and Cooking (a must for every blossoming cook – yep even if you’re a raw food enthusiast), yeast produces carbon dioxide slowly and will leave you with a deflated cake – and ego – as the gas can escape quickly once the resting or fermentation period takes place. So this is where chemical leavening kicks in. Harold reckons that it exploits the reaction between the pH compounds – acid and alkaline – and creates the same yeast producing gas, carbon dioxide.
You can read more about yeast here
Are you still with me, Folks?
Now, the alkaline part is sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 a.k.a. ‘carb soda’, Bicarbonate/Baking Soda or Baking Powder. It’s non-toxic and tasteless according to Harold. So if we have a batter or dough made with a sour starter like yoghurt or sour milk containing lactic acid and we add the alkaline sodium bicarbonate we will get the chemical leavening reaction that causes bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and the bread will rise.
Now, just because “‘carb soda” – that’s how my Nan, Evie used to say it, bless her – don’t think you can go scoffing it by the bucketful to make you more alkaline. You have to eat vegies for that, or you may be in danger of creating a high alkalosis condition requiring immediate placement of a breathing tube and mechanical breathing support. Not fun.
From a health perspective you also do not want any pesky sodium aluminium sulphate added to your bicarb. No, no, no. Why? Well, aluminium is dodgy. We know that. Paul Pitchford, my food as medicine mentor and author of Healing with Whole Foods reckons it’s the kryptonite of the food world. Well actually I said that, but he reckons it’s super strong and leeches out of EVERYTHING, which is why we should steer clear of all aluminium lined tetra packs, cans and tin foil.
Cream of Tartar
Potassium bitartrate KHC4H4O6 is tartaric acid a common fast acting acid salt and will often have sodium aluminium sulphate added Na2SO4 Al2(SO4)3. It’s a by-product of wine making caused by the crystallisation in wine casks during the fermentation of grape juice. It’s sold commercially as a white, acid, crystalline solid or powder and is also used in the tinning of metals and as a component of laxatives.
I wouldn’t be giving it to small people – would you?
So that’s your culinary science lesson for now and don’t worry, there won’t be a test after class
If you want to know more highly useful information like this then buy yourself a copy of my fabulous book The Healing Feeling.