Baking powder is one of those ingredients in the kitchen that we rarely think about but is vitally important. It is also one of those things that, depending on what foods we are avoiding, can secretly be making us sick as well. Today we are going to talk about how you can make your own grain free baking powder!
Carbon dioxide is what actually causes breads or batters to rise. The gas is released, caught by the other ingredients, and held to cause “lift” in the mix. In most breads, yeast is what gives off the CO2. It is a much slower release so the dough needs to be more elastic and supple to hold that CO2 in. That is one reason bread dough is kneaded – it helps create the protein structures to help hold the rising gases in.
In quick breads, a fast acting agent is used, such as baking powder or baking soda. These release their CO2 quickly, which enables us to not need the strong protein structure of many more complex bread doughs. They can give just the right rise we need in a nice pancake or batch of biscuits to lift them without requiring several hours of rising.
What’s it made of?
Baking Powder can be a combination of several things but it is a mixture of baking soda (a base) with some sort of acidic leavener. You will see various ones listed on a commercial baking powder such as sodium aluminum phosphate or monocalcium phosphate. Some of these also offer a delayed rise that is only released when we reach a certain temperature. The easiest for us to get our hands on is Tartaric acid, or more commonly known as Cream of Tartar.
Back to why baking powder can be making us sick: There is always a starch that is mixed in, typically Corn! This isn’t some nefarious plot by Big Ag to get us down. The leavening agents are mixed with a starch for two reasons. First is that it helps to keep it from clumping and makes it easier to measure. Second is it helps regulate the moisture content which could prematurely set off the agents (though I’ve never experienced this).
Do you really need a starch most of the time? Nope! When I make a big batch to use in our Keto and Vegan Brownie Mixes, I don’t add any starch at all. However, depending on how long it stays in your cupboard, it DOES still make sense for most people to add a bit of starch to extend the shelf life and help it clump less. If you prefer no starch at all, then go ahead and try this recipe without any starch. Otherwise, I recommend you find whatever starch works best for you and go ahead and add a bit.
Rising to the Occasion
For what we are going to make you need baking soda, cream of tartar and your preferred starch – arrowroot works great for this. The ratios we are looking for are:
1 Part Baking Soda
1 Part Starch
2 Parts Cream of Tartar
So for example if you want to make a big batch, IE 1 total cup to store, use ¼ cup arrow root starch, a ¼ cup baking soda, and ½ cup cream of tartar, mix it up and that’s it! You can even make it just in the amounts you need at the time. Just apply the ratio to the total amount you need at the time.
Grain Free Baking Powder
¼ Cup Baking Soda
¼ Cup Arrow Root Starch
½ Cup Cream of Tartar
- Add all ingredients to a bowl
- Whisk together until combined
- Store in an air tight container
-If you come back later and it’s lumpy, just run it through a sieve and you are back in business. If you are already sifting flour, then go ahead and just sift your baking powder at the same time.
-As with all leaveners, if you don’t use it all in about a years’ time toss it out and start with fresh ingredients. They will lose their “lifting oomph” over time. And yes, “lifting oomph” is a very technical term.
A lot of the science in this post is from Harold McGees “On Food and Cooking”. This book is a fantastic resource on the science and process behind our food and I highly recommend it.