Distinguishing Cream of Tartar from Baking Soda

Cream of Tartar vs Baking Soda

In baking, the specific ingredients used are crucial to the success of a dish. Leavening agents, such as cream of tartar and baking soda, play an essential role in many baked goods. Understanding the differences between these two leavening ingredients can help make the right choice for each recipe.

What is Cream of Tartar?

Cream of tartar, or potassium hydrogen tartrate (Potassium bitartrate), is a by-product of wine making and is the potassium acid salt of tartaric acid. It has the chemical formula KC4H5O6. During the fermentation of grape juice, potassium bitartrate crystallizes in wine casks and can also precipitate out of wine bottles. These crystals, which are rarely found to dissolve naturally into wine, can be collected and purified to produce an acidic powder used in cooking. Cream of tartar is utilized to stabilize egg whites and whipped cream, prevent sugar syrup from crystallizing, and as an ingredient in baking powder.

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda, or sodium hydrogen carbonate (Sodium bicarbonate), has the chemical formula NaHCO3 and is found naturally in the mineral form of nahcolite. Available as a fine powder with a slightly salty and alkaline taste, baking soda is prepared through the Solvay process, which involves the reaction of ammonia, sodium chloride, and carbon dioxide in water. It can also be obtained by reacting carbon dioxide with an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide. Baking soda is used as a leavening agent in cakes, quick breads, and pancakes, and for making vegetables softer when cooking. It also has applications in medicine, personal care products, and as a fire extinguisher for small grease or electrical fires.

Key Takeaways

  • Cream of tartar is a by-product of wine production, while baking soda’s natural mineral form is nahcolite and can also be produced through the Solvay process.
  • Cream of tartar has the chemical formula KC4H5O6, and baking soda has the formula NaHCO3.
  • Baking soda is a leavening agent, and cream of tartar is a stabilizer; both are ingredients used in baking powder.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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