Baking powder is perhaps the best-known secret of baking. The leavening agent forms bubbles in dough and batter to give muffins, cakes, and no-yeast pizza their tempting lift. First developed in the 19th century, baking powder production turned baking into the home activity we know today.
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Baking powder production begins with sodium bicarbonate
Baking powder is produced by combining a mild acid and a buffer with a base of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Crystallized sodium bicarbonate starts as ammonia and carbon dioxide mixed through a saline solution in an absorption tower. The reaction with salt produces a compound of sodium bicarbonate and ammonium chloride. The result is centrifugated to filter out the sodium bicarbonate, which goes through heating and cooling to reach its crystalline form.
Add cornstarch to buffer sodium bicarbonate from acids
The buffer in the baking powder formula acts as an inert filler, adding bulk to the baking powder. But this additive does more than thicken the product.
It favors flowability by preventing mixture powders from binding together during processing. A buffer keeps the acids and bases separate during storage and stops them from reacting. Thanks to its moisture-absorption ability, cornstarch is almost invariably used. Sodium bicarbonate, acid, and cornstarch are blended in mixing containers and combined into a homogeneous blend.
Industrial acid blends determine the reaction time of baking powder
There is a broad spectrum of acid leaveners to choose from, depending on the action the baking powder is designed for. The acids blended in the mixture are either slow-reacting or fast-reacting.
On the slow-reaction side, anhydrous monocalcium phosphate (AMCP) is a stable ingredient and releases about 15% of carbon dioxide at the mixing stage. Dicalcium phosphate dihydrate (DCP) is even slower and only reacts with sodium bicarbonate when the temperature of the batter reaches 60°C.
A popular fast-reacting acid is monocalcium phosphate (MCP), letting off 60%-70% of carbon dioxide by the end of the mixing stage. This action produces batters with high viscosity and high volume.
Mix acids to produce a double reaction in baking powder
Most commercial baking powders contain acid types and are known as double-acting ingredients. A fast-reacting acid such as cream of tartar dissolves quickly and releases carbon dioxide as soon as it comes into contact with the recipe’. The second acid, a slow-reacting leavener, produces a second burst of CO2 when the batter hits the oven’s heat.