How Baking Powder works
In the late 19th century a young Thomas John Edmonds arrived in New Zealand. He settled in Christchurch and opened a small grocery store where many of his customers complained of the unreliability of available baking powder products. So Edmonds set about making his own at the back of the shop. Not only was his product ‘sure to rise’ it became a true icon of Kiwi Culture.
Baking Powder is a raising agent made of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) mixed with an acid (cream of tartar) and cornstarch (which ensures the mixture doesn’t get moist and start reacting in the container).
When you add baking powder to your muffins, cupcakes or quick breads- the bicarbonate is activated by moisture and heat, breaking down to release carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles give create that fluffy, airy texture.
Yeast is has a similar function in baking, but baking powder is used when the flavours of fermentation aren’t wanted. It was first discovered and manufactured in 1843 by the British Chemist Alfred Bird so he could make yeast-free bread for his allergic wife.
If you ever find yourself short of baking powder, you can substitute one teaspoon of baking powder for 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.