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Homemade Baking Powder

June 14, 2010

Baking PowderMise en place (literally: putting in place) . Remember this phrase as it is as important to kitchen work as pots, pans, and salt. Here’s my story:

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a private showing of a favored artist’s work. As I am an avid collector of his pieces I was honored and excited to be chosen to have first choice. After spending the day taking care of personal business, I arrived home with only 45 minutes remaining before the showing. And, suddenly, I reminded myself that I am a Southern woman. Now, I’m not just Southern; I’m deeply so. I am proud of my heritage and its traditions. I still say “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir.” I was raised on Sunday supper and  sweet tea, buttermilk biscuits and sorghum syrup. I believe in paper hand fans, magnolia trees, “just dropping by,” and having doors opened for me. I know that a house is not complete without a porch, and that the 4th of July is for family reunions. And when I’m tired or angry the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, and The Gulf all converge in my mouth and the sound that spews forth when I part my lips would make Blanche DuBois’ drawl sound like the Queen’s English.  Southern I am; woman I am. And NO self-respecting Southern woman would show up at an engagement empty-handed.  With this in mind, I decided to bake a cake–my famous-among-my-friends Orange Cake. I set to cracking eggs and juicing the Valencia oranges I had on hand, measuring out flour and sugar, and preheating the oven. Two-thirds of the way through mixing in ingredients, I realized I was missing the all-crucial baking powder. Had I taken the time to do my mise en place, this little fact would not have escaped my notice for so long. But there I was. What to do?

I swung open the cupboard door and tossed little jars around until I located the clear plastic bottle at the back of the shelf that held my cake’s salvation. A bottle of white powder that no baker should ever be without: Cream of Tartar. This little wine-making derivative saved my offering, and it could one day save yours. Here’s how:

  • 4 parts cream of tartar
  • 2 parts baking soda

Sift the powders together three or four times and store in an airtight container in your cupboard for 4-8 weeks. This makes a single-acting baking powder that is aluminum-free and as fresh as your 2 ingredients.

Doing the math: A “part” is a standardized measurement that you choose. If you choose to use a tablespoon as your “part,” then the recipe would be 4 tablespoons cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Which would give you 6 tablespoons of baking powder to use or store.

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