Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a weak alkali and a weak acid, and is used for increasing the volume and lightening the texture of baked goods. Baking powder works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture. It is used instead of yeast for end-products where fermentation flavors would be undesirable or where the batter lacks the elastic structure to hold gas bubbles for more than a few minutes. Because carbon dioxide is released at a faster rate through the acid-base reaction than through fermentation, breads made by chemical leavening are called quick breads.
Early chemical leavening was accomplished by activating baking soda in the presence of liquid(s) and an acid such as sour milk, vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar. These acidulants all react with baking soda quickly, meaning that retention of gas bubbles was dependent on batter viscosity and that it was critical for the batter to be baked before the gas escaped. The development of baking powder created a system where the gas-producing reactions could be delayed until needed. While various baking powders were sold in the first half of the 19th century, our modern variants were discovered by Alfred Bird in 1843. August Oetker, a German pharmacist, made baking powder very popular when he began selling his mixture to housewives. The recipe he created in 1891 is still sold as Backin in Germany. Oetker started the mass production of baking powder in 1898 and patented his technique in 1903.
Following the American Civil War Joseph and Cornelius Hoagland developed a baking powder with the help of an employee, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and their formula became known as Royal Baking Powder. The small company eventually moved to New York in the 1890s and became the largest manufacturer of baking powder.Read More