Gluten Free & More magazine is known for our wonderful recipes and our incredible team of prize-winning bakers and chefs. So, naturally, we get a lot of questions about baking. In fact, our Ask The Chef column is so popular that it appears in every issue of the magazine. Readers often asks us about the difference between baking soda and baking powder and whether baking powder is gluten-free.
Baking powder and baking soda are often confused. Baking soda is used in baking, but it can also be used as a natural and effective ingredient in household cleaning. Baking powder is primarily used for baking. But there are differences between the two besides what you use them for. Beth Hillson, our food editor, explains the difference.
“Baking powder and baking soda are both leavening agents that help baked goods rise. Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is actually an ingredient in the more mild-mannered baking powder. A baking recipe will usually call for ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for every 1 cup or so of flour. Baking soda is usually a better choice than baking powder when the recipe includes acidic ingredients like buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, citrus juice, molasses or brown sugar. Unless instructed otherwise by your recipe, always mix baking soda with your dry ingredients first; it reacts when it hits moisture. Don’t let a batter made with baking soda stand around. For best results, get it in the oven right away.”
Baking powder, however, includes baking soda, along with other ingredients. Baking powder is made with a combination of baking soda, an acid (cream of tartar) and a starch (to absorb moisture).
So is baking powder gluten-free – It depends on the starch the manufacturer uses. This starch can either be gluten-free (made from corn starch) or gluten-full (made from wheat starch). Even if you find a gluten-free baking powder, this can introduce a problem for those who are gluten-free, but have a corn intolerance. If you cannot have corn, you can make a corn-free baking powder using baking soda, cream of tartar and arrowroot starch, using this recipe from Beth Hillson.
The baking powder brands you can find in grocery stores are typically gluten-free – Bob’s Red Mill and Clabber Girl are two brands of baking powder that do not contain gluten and are safe for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
A baking recipe will usually call for 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every 1 cup or so of flour. Baking powder is perishable and should be stored in a cool, dry place. You’ll want to keep an eye on the expiration date on the can. To test if it’s still good, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to 1/3 cup of hot water. If it doesn’t bubble up like it’s at a party, toss it and buy a fresh supply.