how to make your own baking powder

Make Your Own Baking Powder – Why and How

Baking powder is a complete leavening agent. This means it contains both the base (sodium bicarbonate) and acid needed for the product to rise. Cornstarch is also typically found in baking powder. It’s added as a buffer to prevent (slow down) the acid and base from activating during storage. With that said, here’s one reason that you might want to make your own baking powder. Hint: It has to do with preparedness and long term storage…

First, this… When baking powder is combined with water, a chemical reaction occurs. This reaction enables its ingredients to produce carbon dioxide – which is then trapped in tiny air pockets throughout a dough or batter. When baked, the trapped carbon dioxide air pockets expand, thus expanding the overall food. It ‘rises’. So far, so good…

One problem though with store-bought baking powder is its shelf life. And when it comes to preparedness, one thing we look at is how to mitigate shelf life issues. Normally during ordinary times, there’s no issue with the shelf life of baking powder. You just buy another when you need to (when it doesn’t rise so well anymore).

But did you know that you could purchase its bulk ingredients separately (each which will last ‘forever’), and simply make your own baking powder when you need to?

A lot of people don’t know that you can make baking powder yourself.

Here’s how, with just two ingredients. And each of them have an unlimited shelf life…

Note: My observations indicate that store-bought baking powder has an approximate shelf-life of 1 to 2 years. That is, if unopened and stored in a favorable (dry) environment. By sourcing the individual ingredients, and only mixing them when you need to, you are effectively increasing the shelf life to infinity… or thereabouts ;)

Homemade Baking Powder Ingredients

Cream of Tartar (1lb)
(amzn)

Pure Baking Soda

Corn Starch (optional)

Make Your Own Baking Powder Recipe

Simply combine 2 parts Cream of Tarter with 1 part Baking Soda.

Optionally also add 1 part Corn Starch for longevity (if you’re making a batch to store on the shelf versus immediate use) because it will absorb moisture over time.

Use a sifter to combine ingredients into a bowl for best results.

If you are making a bulk batch, store in an an air-tight environment such as a canning jar with lid (to prohibit moisture from prematurely ‘reacting’ the ingredients).

What is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of Tartar is a byproduct of the wine industry (bet you wouldn’t have guessed that!). It is formed from the sediment left over in wine barrels after the wine-making process. It is scraped off of the sides of the barrels and then cleaned and ground to form cream of tartar (a fine, white, odorless powder).

The chemical name is “potassium bitartrate”, or “potassium hydrogen tartrate” – an acid salt – (you can see where the “tartar” came from).

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda is pure “sodium bicarbonate”. Most of what is used in the United States is mined and processed from a raw material (called ‘Trona’) in Green River, Wyoming.

Remember this science experiment? Mixing baking soda (base) with vinegar (acid) and watching an eruption of bubbles? (Simulated volcano eruption…)

Although you don’t want your breads or biscuits to ‘erupt’, the same reaction occurs when you add baking soda (base) with an acid such as cream of tartar (and water to activate).

What is Corn Starch?

Cornstarch is made from washing and drying the “endosperm” of the corn until reaching a fine and powdery texture. It is most often used as a thickener for sauces. It is flavorless after cooking.

Shelf Life

This is my understanding of the situation…

Cream of tartar lasts until it comes in contact with moisture. You might say that cream of tarter has an indefinite shelf life if kept in an airtight moisture-proof container, and stored in a dark environment (back of a cupboard). It only goes bad if it is exposed to moisture or if constant exposure to light breaks it down.

What about baking soda? Same thing… Storage conditions play a significant role in the actual shelf life of baking soda. According to Arm & Hammer, the official shelf life of baking soda is 3 years. Baking soda readily absorbs moisture. However, in practice, if kept in an airtight moisture-proof container, it should have an indefinite shelf life.

What about baking powder (the combination of both ingredients mentioned above)? Since baking powder is the combination of both the acid (cream of tartar) and the base (baking soda), it is susceptible to reaction and loss of efficacy – given any moisture content which finds its way into the mix over time. Therefore it is more likely to lose efficacy.

If the ingredients are kept separate, they will not chemically ‘react’ with each other under such circumstances, and therefore are considered to have an indefinite shelf life – given proper storage conditions.

Why do some recipes call for baking powder and others call for baking soda?

Baking soda is used in recipes that also include an acidic ingredient, such as cream of tartar, buttermilk, or citrus juice.

Baking powder is typically used when the recipe doesn’t feature an acidic ingredient, as baking powder already includes the acid needed to produce carbon dioxide.

Many baked-good recipes include baking soda or baking powder as a leavening agent. Some may even include both.

While both products appear similar, they’re certainly not the same.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which requires an acid and a liquid to become activated and help baked goods rise.

Conversely, baking powder includes sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), as well as an acid. It only needs a liquid to become activated.

What about Single versus Double-Acting Baking Powder?

Important!

The recipe above, how to make your own baking powder, is considered single acting. Single-acting baking powder reacts with a water-based ingredient to form bubbles as soon as the ingredients are mixed. If you wait too long to bake your food or over-mix your ingredients, the bubbles will escape and your food will fall flat.

Double-acting baking powder produces some bubbles when the ingredients are mixed. However, most of the rising occurs once it meets the heat. Double-acting baking powder is more reliable for home baking because it is harder to overheat the ingredients and your recipe will be less susceptible to failure should you forget to preheat your oven. Because it’s practically foolproof, this is the type of baking powder most often found in stores.

HOWEVER! My understanding is the additional ingredient in double-acting baking powder is sodium aluminum sulfate. It is an insoluble crystalline powder. Although it is acidic by nature, it refuses to interact with sodium bicarbonate unless fully melted, delaying any reaction until it is warmed above 140 oF. Thus, double-acting.

Aluminum is apparently directly correlated with Alzheimer’s. By making your own baking powder, you are controlling the ingredients and assuring there’s no aluminum (if that’s a concern for you).

Out of curiosity, I have looked for true aluminum free double acting baking powder. Although there are claims as such, upon inspecting ingredients, they’re either not listed, or, the fine print lists “sodium aluminum sulfate”. How they can get away with it is beyond me.

By the way, doesn’t that picture of those biscuits up top make you hungry?!

[ Read: No Yeast Bread ]

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23 Comments

  1. I ground up the crystals that settle out of grape juice and made cream of tartar. Although not pure, it acted exactly as expected. Just make sure you grind it really fine, or you’ll end up with grit in your teeth.

  2. Earthborn Elements Cream of Tartar (1 Gallon), Baking Ingredient, Non GMO 128 Ounces 56.00 on amazon. works out to about .45 cents a lb i think. Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) (5 lb) Eco-Friendly Packaging, Food & Pharmaceutical Grade Aluminum-Free 16.00. that would make a lot of baking powder.
    we buy everything in bulk. 6 lb jars of garlic, oregano, black pepper etc. for 25 bucks from amazon (yea i know) but try buying 6 lbs of that in those small glass jars or can’s on the shelves in the groceries stores. the jugs that they come in are plastic, we put them in some Bormioli Rocco 2 liter Fido Glass Canning Jars that we got several years ago and they are great to store bulk spices and other things in, but be aware on the jars that if you order 2, 1 will be broken when you receive it and will have to be returned. that happened to us three times, they made it good, but it was a hassle. really great jars if they arrive in one piece.

  3. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I realized that I had a hole in my food storage- baking powder. I make biscuits a lot and noticed I didn’t have much left and it has become very expensive and sometimes hard to obtain. I am going to buy the 2 pound cream of tartar and I have enough of the other ingredients to make lots of baking powder.
    Thanks so much.

    1. old lady:
      Still have and use your recipe for Biscuits.
      Really REALLY good.
      Thank you again for sharing.

    2. Hello “old lady”..sounds like it is a perfect time to share again your recipe for Biscuits.
      They Really REALLY sound good! Thank you !

  4. Great info.. I had no idea that aluminum was in my baking powder. Time to make my own. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. (hopefully I don’t forget this) Thank you!

  5. Freeze the juice of fresh squeezed grapes 🍇 and the tartic acid (cream of Tarter) will precipitate out. When you thaw the juice you should have maybe 1/2-1 cups of crystals per gallon of juice. ( with red grapes the crystals will be silvery red) Rinse in cold water briefly and dry, fine grind for use in baking powder.(BTW- if you make grape jelly from your own grapes, try the freeze/removal of the tartic acid first before starting your jelly recipe. It will remove the tartness and the grape flavor really comes out in the finished product!)

    1. Hm. I’d heard of chilling juice to get this result, but when I tried it didn’t make a difference. I’ll try freezing next time.

      Does it matter if the juice sits for a while? Like if I pull a bottle of grape juice off the shelf mid-winter and put it outside?

  6. Lauren,
    It may depend on the variety of grape. In the wine industry, wine is “cold stabilized” to precipitate the tartic acid out before bottling. We boil and juice certain wine grapes to make jelly, so we can freeze it in 1 or 2 gallon bags for later use. We just thaw the juice and strain through a jelly bag, usually leaves quite a bit of TA. Wine makers cold stabilize wine at about 14F, just above freezing for wine. You could let your juice stand in a cool place to get tartic acid to drop out, but getting it below 32F really speeds the process with a higher percentage dropping out in my experience. Dropping the TA out really improves the taste tremendously.

  7. is baking powder the same as yeast? i don’t know, DW makes all of the bread and biscuits , and she is not here for me to ask her.
    my job is to eat them, and i’m good at that. that girl know’s she can make some good cornbread, biscuits and bread. her mom and grand mom taught her how, “country girls, can a man do any better?”. i do what she tells me to and just go outside and get out of her way.
    she cooks the bread and what veggies i don’t put on the grill and i cook the meat, it works out well. we stay out of each others way.

  8. Thanks for the recipe on baking powder Ken. Fortunately, I have always been able to find it on the store shelves in my AO. (I use Clabber Girl baking powder, Arm and Hammer baking soda). Good to know how to make it from scratch though. Use of baking powder or baking soda is not just for biscuits. Baking powder and baking soda are the leavening agents for: Southern Staple of Cornbread, Banana nut/fruit nut breads, coffee cakes and frozen pizza dough. (yeast does not handle being frozen well at all).

  9. Hello “old lady”..sounds like it is a perfect time to share again your recipe for Biscuits.
    They Really REALLY sound good! Thank you !

    1. Just for you truth seeker

      Buttermilk biscuits
      2 cups flour
      1 tesp salt and baking powder
      1/2 tesp baking soda
      4 tablespoons butter
      mix together, add;
      1 cup buttermilk
      you can add a handful of shredded cheese of desired
      mix together and put dough on a floured surface
      knead a couple of times, but not a lot or the biscuits will be hard
      roll out about 1/2″ or less and cut out biscuits.
      bake 450 for 12-14 minutes (depends on over, until nicely light browned)
      slather with butter! about 9 or 10 biscuits

      1. old lady,

        I used your recipe this morning to make biscuits and sausage gravy. My boys loved them! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Farmgirl & old lady
    Learned a trick how to integrate the fats and or cheese into biscuit mix. Regarding butter you make sure it is ice cold. Mark one end with a knife giving yourself 1 inch marking all around the stick of butter. Then grate the butter up to the mark when both sticks are grated you put it into the bowl of your biscuit mix. You fluff the butter through the flour so it will stick. Then you mix in the butter milk until it is incorporated but do not over mix the batter. You will then have buttery flavor biscuits, or cheese depending on which you like. Left over butter is then brushed on the top after they are baked
    PBS chef on last evenings program. There was more to the process of high rise flaked butter milk biscuits, it showed how to fold roll and fold again until it was done 5 times, cutting the edge off so you have 9 biscuits. Learn something new all the time.

    1. Antique Collector,

      I never thought of grating the butter. That’s a brilliant idea! I’m definitely going to try that next time, with butter from the freezer.

    2. Biscuit Lovers, I add some sugar and a big handful of rolled oats to the dry ingredients and some cream or half and half to the wet. Quick oats, if preferred, gives a finer texture. Handle very gently. Pat out thick and cut into rounds for lovely scones. .. For quick cinnamon rolls I add sugar and spices (usually cardamom, nutmeg, and orange zest or dried peel) to the dry, and substitute milk for the buttermilk. Pat into a rectangle, swab with soft or melted butter, cover in cinnamon, brown sugar, and nuts – prefer pecans. Roll, slice, bake.

  11. For dumplings, Take biscuit batter. Drop by tablespoonfuls into simmering pot of soup or stew. Make sure to add extra water or milk to the pot, depending on the base, to be absorbed by dumplings. Cover tightly and simmer 15-20 minutes. Oh yum!

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