I have always excelled at procrastinating. In case you haven’t mastered it for yourself, the secret to procrastination is to find anything that is something other than what you are supposed to be doing. And do that. For as long as possible. Becoming a blogger has made this infinitely easier on me. The effort I put into procrastination these days is minimal.
One of my new favorite procrastination activities is to look at my blog stats and read through the search engine terms people are using to find my blog. It can be quite entertaining, and also disturbing at times. There are some seriously perverted search terms bringing people to my blog. Those people are probably disappointed when they get here…
But I have been noticing a trend over the last few months. The top search term people are using to find my blog is “chocolate chip cookie recipe without baking soda.” People have found my blog by googling this in some form over 3000 times in the past few months. Either someone is REALLY trying to find the answer to this over and over again, or this is for some reason a hot topic for people. Why don’t you have baking soda people? It’s a staple in the pantry. But I’m not here to judge, just to educate. So I bring you a recipe today with no baking soda or baking powder. I’m assuming that my Science of the Chocolate Chip Cookie post has been the culprit bringing people to the blog up until now, but it really doesn’t go in depth about baking soda and powder and how to swap them or eliminate them. So I thought I would do a bit of baking science today about this!
Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents. Meaning that they make your baked goods rise by creating air bubbles when mixed and baked.
Baking Soda (also known as Bicarbonate of Soda) is just sodium bicarbonate. In order for it to do it’s job, it needs an acidic component in the party. In baking, the usual acidic components include vinegar, yogurt, lemon juice (or other citrus juice), buttermilk, brown sugar, and chocolate (now you know why almost all chocolate chip cookie recipes call for baking soda). When the basic properties of baking soda mix with the acidic properties of one of these ingredients it starts to neutralize creating air bubbles (carbon dioxide). This raises the baked good and also makes it more tender. Baking soda is ideal to be used instead of baking powder if there is an acidic component because it is about 4 times more effective than baking powder. Another awesome thing about baking soda (did I just call baking soda awesome?) is that it has an indefinite shelf life. Baking powder, on the other hand, does not. (*see source note at the bottom)
Baking Powder is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) already mixed with an acid (usually cream of tartar). Therefore, baking powder on its own is used in baked goods that do not already contain an acid. It works in the same way baking soda does, by creating air bubbles which cause the batter to rise. If you find yourself without baking soda you can always substitute baking powder for baking soda. This is not true the other way around. But keep in mind that baking soda is much more effective so using more baking powder is needed. To make sure your baking powder is still effective, add about a tsp to a cup of hot water. If it is still good, it will start bubbling quite a bit. If it does not, time to throw it out and get some new. (*see source note at the bottom)
Here are a few scenarios to help you out:
My recipe calls for baking soda and I don’t have any?: If you have baking powder you can substitute using 2 or 3 times more the amount. I know I said that baking soda is 4xs more powerful than baking powder but I would only increase the amount by 2-3 xs. These ingredients can make your batter taste bitter.
My recipe calls for baking powder and I don’t have any? If you happen to have baking soda and some cream of tartar you can make your own baking powder! You mix the two together at a 2:1 ratio. 2 parts baking soda and 1 part cream of tartar= baking powder. You can also ask yourself if the recipe does have one of those acidic ingredients listed above in it. If it does, you can likely just use a little less baking soda in place of the amount of baking powder.
I don’t have either baking soda or baking powder: Determine how important is the rise of this baked good. Is it very important, like a cake? Or is it okay if they are a little flat, like cookies? How many eggs are in it because eggs will help with the rise? If there are eggs and it isn’t that important for the baked good to rise, you can probably leave both baking soda and baking powder out. Your baked good will most likely have a more dense crumb to it if you do leave both out, but that isn’t always a bad thing!
I made a cookie recipe without baking soda or baking powder and they turned out great! My husband told me they were his favorite cookies. They aren’t my absolute favorite, but they were really delicious!
If you have any other cookie science questions please do check out my post: The Science of The Chocolate Chip Cookie where I teach you how to customize a recipe to create your perfect chocolate chip cookie!
*Also check out The 2nd Annual Cookie Wars Contest that is currently open and accepting entries!*
Note: I almost always brown the butter in my cookie recipes. It creates an incredible depth of flavor, but it is not necessary to make the recipe work. To brown butter, place the butter in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium/high heat. Stir constantly, do not step away. The butter will melt, turn murky, clear up, then begin to turn an amber color. Remove from the heat as soon as it is a medium amber color. Allow to cool for several minutes before adding to the batter.
Also a note about sugar. Granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and dark brown sugar are all interchangeable in this recipe. I wanted a bit of chew, but a mostly crunchy cookie so I used mostly white sugar with some brown sugar. If you want more chew, use all brown sugar. If you want more crisp, use all white sugar.
*I have learned most of this information by watching endless episodes of Good Eats with Alton Brown. I also read a lot of baking articles and a few that you should check out if you want to learn more about baking soda and baking powder are:
The Food Lab: Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda at Serious Eats
Baking Powder and Baking Soda (Bicarbonate) by Joy of Baking