Baking soda is a commonly mystifying ingredient in the baking world. What exactly is it? Is it the same thing as baking powder? Is it okay that it’s been in my pantry for two years? If you have these questions, don’t worry. We once had them too.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is used as a leavening agent in many cakes, breads, or cookies. It make doughs airier and less dense.
The leavening effect works by combining baking soda with acidic ingredients, like buttermilk or yogurt, to create a reaction.
While baking soda is a key ingredient to help batter rise, it’s not the only option to help your batter rise.
Baking soda has a shelf-life of 18 months, but it’s not quite as cut and dry as reading the expiration date.
Technically, eating expired baking soda won’t hurt you, so you don’t have to worry about falling ill from a cake gone wrong.
However, if baking soda has gone bad, it won’t work very well. Using baking soda that’s past its prime could result in baked goods being denser and flatter than expected.
You usually won’t be able to tell if the soda has gone bad just from looking at it, but a quick experiment can let you know.
The process is simple. Baking soda works to expand dough by reacting to acid, so to see if it works, combine a small amount of the soda with an acidic ingredient. Here’s what we’d do:
If you’re too busy to go to the store but find your baking soda is no longer active, don’t worry too much. According to Healthline writer Ansley Hill, there are some great alternatives:
If neither of these options work for you, then consider just leaving it out. Your baked good may be slightly denser, but it will still have the same delicious flavor.
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