One scientific thing to know about baking powder:
It's a mix of chemicals, usually cream of tartar and either sodium aluminum sulfate or anhydrous monocalcium phosphate, that produces a controlled reaction when combined with liquids and heat. Nearly all baking powder sold today is "double acting," which means that it contains two acids that react at two different times; the quick-acting acid dissolves first, when mixed with liquid, and the slower-acting acid reacts when activated by heat. These reactions release carbon dioxide gas, which causes the batter that's carrying the baking powder to rise. If you start to make a recipe and find that all you have in the pantry is baking soda instead of baking powder, you can make a baking powder substitute by combining one part baking soda to two parts cream of tartar. (In a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of baking powder, use two teaspoons of cream of tartar and one teaspoon of baking soda.)
Cooking or baking?
Baking powder usually comes in a tin with a snap-on lid. Keep it in the original tin, covered, in a cool, dry part of the pantry, for 6-12 months. To test for viability, drop a generous pinch in some hot water. If it fizzes, it's still good; if it sinks in a blob to the bottom of the bowl, throw it away.
Lemon tea cake
There's no tea in this very lemony cake, but it's the perfect cake to serve with a cup of tea. Adapted slightly from The Flavor of New England: Breads, Rolls and Pastries, published by Yankee in 1981, this recipe makes 1 loaf (10-12 slices). Can be frozen.
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick, left at room temperature)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup skim milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with baking spray and set aside.
In a Kitchenaid type stand mixer, cream the butter and 3/4 cup sugar. Add lemon zest and eggs, and beat well. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mixture along with the milk, and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven.
In a small measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar until it is smooth, and pour over the warm cake. Allow the cake to cool in the pan.
Other recipes that use baking powder:
Baking powder biscuits, from Trini Gourmet
Sour cream apple cake, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Yuzu white chocolate cupcake, from Cupcake Bakeshop by Chocklit
Baking powder bread, from Icelandic Cooking
Crustless spinach, onion and feta quiche, from Baking Bites
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