Oops! That was baking soda,
not baking powder

sodaI was making a carrot cake for my brother’s birthday over the weekend and after I added the baking powder into the mix, I realized the recipe called for baking soda.
At this point, it was too late to start over. The party was in a few hours and I didn’t have time to buy new ingredients.
I knew soda and powder were leaveners, but I didn’t know the difference. In a panic, I added the four teaspoons of baking soda listed in the recipe to the two teaspoons of baking powder already in the mix.
I poured the cake mixture into a pan and put it in the oven to cook for an hour. I immediatley started googling the subject to find out what to expect from using too much leavener.
Thanks to Simple RecipesI learned that baking soda is made of sodium bicarbonate and is a base. Baking powder is a baking soda mixed with an acid like cream of tartar. Apparently, I could have used three times the amount of baking powder (twelvet teaspoons) instead of using the baking soda.
As I watched the cake cooking, it looked great until about 10 minutes before it was done. Because there was too much leavener in the cake, it had risen a little too much and the middle collapse about a quarter of an inch.
carrot cakeFortunately, the flavor and texture were still great. The cream cheese frosting hid any of the imperfections and no one ever complains about having too much cream cheese frosting.

Lessons learned:

  • Read recipe closely
  • Baking soda needs acid in the recipe to work
  • Baking soda adds a slight salty flavor to a dish
  • You can replace baking soda with baking power, but you can’t replace packing powder with baking soda
  • When enough cream cheese frosting, almost anything is edible.

Salted vs. unsalted butter

Unsalted butterI started preparing the ingredients for a cake and I noticed the recipe called for unsalted butter. I knew butter came salted and unsalted, but I didn’t know if using salted butter would affect the outcome of the cake.

After a few hours of research, I discovered most chefs seem to think it is an issue of control. The amount of salt in different brands of salted butter can range from 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick to 1/2 teaspoon of salt per stick. The more you control the variables in your food preparation, the more consistent your results will be.

That is good enough for me to continue using unsalted butter.

Lessons learned:

– There are three types of butter: cultured, sweet cream and raw.
– Cultured butter is made from a fermented cream.
– Sweet cream butter is made from pasteurized fresh cream.
– Raw cream butter is made from fresh or cultured unpasteurized cream.
– All categories of butter are sold in both salted and unsalted forms.
– Cultured butter is sometimes labeled “European-style” butter in the United States.
– Normal butter softens to a spreadable consistency around 60 °F.
– Clarified butter is butter with almost all of its water and milk solids removed, leaving almost-pure butterfat.
– Ghee is clarified butter which is brought to higher temperatures of around 250 °F once the water has cooked off, allowing the milk solids to brown.
– Once butter is softened, spices, herbs or other flavoring agents can be mixed into it, producing what is called a compound butter or composite butter.
– Here are the smoking points for common cooking fats.

Soybean oil – 495 °F
Sunflower oil – 437 °F
Corn oil – 446 °F
Peanut oil – 437 °F
Canola oil – 401 °F
Suet – 400°F
Olive oil – 374 °F
Lard – 374 °F
Vegetable shortening – 329 °F
Butter – 302 °F