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Baking Power
And Other Leavening Agents
gourmet articlesbaking power

March 2003
With the long cold days of winter before us, one way of passing the time is to do some baking. Through the years of my training as a Chef, I have seen many different recipes calling for baking soda, baking powder and yeast all for the purpose of leavening.

Often recipes call for "Double-action" baking powder. What is Double-action baking powder and how is it different than regular baking powder? Baking powder is only one way of leavening baked goods. Other agents used are baking soda and yeast. Baking soda acts as a leavening agent when mixed with an acid such as sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk or citrus juice. Baking soda is mainly used in cakes that contain cocoa powder or chocolate.

There are three basic types of baking powder. Double-action, which releases 1/3 of the carbon dioxide when it becomes wet and at room temperature and the rest during baking when exposed to the oven's heat. Tartrate baking powder reacts quicker, as soon as the liquid is added. Phosphate baking powder is slower and only heat releases its gases. The phosphate baking powder is very hard to find and usually not an item most stores stock on their shelf because of the popularity of the double-action powder. Baking powder is perishable and should be kept in a cool and dry cabinet in an airtight container.

Yeast is a tiny living single-cell organism that thrives on sweetness, warmth, and moisture. Yeast releases gases that makes bread dough rise, lightening the bread. Yeast not only makes dough rise, it also works on the gluten in the flour to give it flavor and texture. The process of converting the sugar in the food that feeds the yeast is commonly called fermentation. This process converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process is not only used in the making of bread, it is the very process used by winemakers and brew masters in the making of wine and beer. The key to using yeast is temperature control. Compressed, fresh yeast should be dissolved in 100 degrees F to 105 degrees F in milk or water. Dry yeast should be dissolved in 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F milk or water. When using the newer types of instant yeasts, follow closely the manufacture's directions.

Commercially available yeasts and baking powders were not so readily available during the 19th Century. Most bakers used a "yeast starter" for the leavener used in bread making. These starters were a simple mixture of flour, water, sugar and airborne yeast. The batter was set aside in a warm location and allowed to ferment creating a natural leavening batter. Today we receive "starters" from our friends and often Holiday season is usually the time we share these starters with friends, hence the term "friendship bread" was born. A simple sweet bread made from a homemade starter shared with a friend. Here is an easy recipe to make your own simple starter and the recipe for the wonderful bread we call "friendship bread"

Starting A Starter

2 C flour, all purpose
1 tsp salt
3T sugar
1 envelop dry yeast
2 C water, very warm from tap, not hot

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the water and mix until very smooth like a batter. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm draft free area of the kitchen for 2 to 3 days. Stir twice daily during souring process. Store in a plastic food bag; burp as needed to remove gases. Starter may be used with almost cake recipes that call for a starter.

Friendship Starter Bread

Begin with a bread starter and follow the daily instructions:
Day 1 receive starter bag
Day 2 massage starter bag
Day 3 massage starter bag
Day 4 massage starter bag
Day 5 add 1 Cup of each: sugar, flour, milk
"Do not refrigerate"
Day 6, 7, 8 and 9-massage starter bag
Day 10 add 1 cup each: sugar, "self rising" flour, milk
Remove 3 separate cups of batter and place each one in a large food bag; give to 3 friends.

You will now have one remaining starter. Add to this the following:
2C self-rising flour
tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 small boxes of vanilla pudding
C milk
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg

Stir well by hand. Add the following: 1 C chopped pecans, 1 C golden raisins, 1 C dried cherries or cranberries. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake in a well-greased pan. Dust pan with sugar and cinnamon before pouring batter into pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Turn upside down and remove from pan onto cooling rack and cool.

Written By:
John E. Clark CEC- Chef Johnny to his friends

Simple White Bread Recipe
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