Brands of Baking Powder
Posted: 06 June 2012 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Dear Rose and Fellow Posters:

Hi. I am new to this Web site and stumbled across it a while ago when I was looking up information on baking. Rose is clearly an excellent baker, scientist, teacher, and author, and it is wonderful of her to provide such a great resource for all people to share in the joys of baking.
My question concerns the differences that I seem to be encountering with two brands of baking powder: Clabber Girl and Argo. I have used Clabber Girl for a long time, but I decided to switch to Argo baking powder, since aluminum-free is the way to be, or so I hear, nowadays. Using Argo, however, I noticed that some of the cakes that I bake (I am a completely amateur baker) rise rather quickly in the oven and, regarding cupcakes, they overflow the liners in the pan and stretch across the rim. (I could see them through the oven door’s window and made certain that I did not open the oven door until I reached near the end of the baking process.) I do not think that I had this problem with the same recipes using Clabber Girl and am wondering if I am suddenly doing something wrong and not realizing it or if there is a difference in performance among the various brands of baking powder. (None of the cake recipes I have used are Rose’s; I only have _The Pie and Pastry Bible_ and am thinking that I really need to get her _The Cake Bible_ to improve my skills and to learn more about cake baking.) The reason that I chose Argo is because it is double-acting, has recently appeared on my store shelves in large numbers, and was recommended by food testers on _The Fresh Loaf_ and _The Luke Warm Legumes_ Web sites. (Plus, I am a little slow in the kitchen, so I am afraid that the leavening will fizzle out too quickly with single-acting baking powder.) However, I am not having much luck with the Argo baking powder in cakes that use the “creaming method.”

Though not a scientific test, I decided to see how Clabber Girl and Argo react in hot water. Therefore, I dissolved 1/4 t. of Clabber Girl baking powder in 1/4 cup of hot water and did the same with the Argo baking powder. I noticed that the Clabber Girl released bubbles that generally stayed in the corner of the bowl, plus the water bubbled steadily and continuously for a few minutes (I could hear the bubbling even when it was difficult to see tiny bubbles.). The Argo baking powder, when dissolved in a separate bowl of hot water, bubbled slightly more strongly, and this time, the bubbles spread across the bowl. However, the bubbling was less steady and did not seem to last as long as the bubbling of the water with the Clabber Girl dissolved in it. (After about a minute, the bubbling sound was difficult to hear.) If they are both double-acting, does anybody have any idea why they seem to react differently when dissolved in hot water or why they seem to perform differently in the same cake recipe? (I tried finding information online, and one Web site—_Bowl of Plenty_—stated that a chemical compound in Argo has “variable” reaction times. The compound—Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate—is manufactured “in multiple grades, each with a different reaction rate.” I am not too sure what that means, but could that be the problem?) Should I go back to the Clabber Girl, or does the health risk of ingesting aluminum, plus the metallic taste that it may impart, make the Argo a better choice?

I will have to try Argo in more tried-and-true cake recipes to see if there is really a difference, but for now, I was just wondering if Rose (or anyone else) has used it in cakes or has any suggestions or information to offer. Thank you very much!

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Posted: 06 June 2012 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I use Argo and haven’t noticed any unusual characteristics.  Prior to that, I used Rumford, and before that, I used Kroger store brand.  I haven’t noticed any major differences among them.  I believe that all manufacturers formulate their products to produce comparable results.  I would bet that there’s some other variation in your technique that’s causing your problem.

I don’t buy that there’s any health risk behind ingesting aluminum, but since many object to the taste, I avoid it anyway.  Unfortunately, the only store in town that carried Argo closed.  Interestingly, the Rumford “low sodium” variation uses the same mixture of ingredients as Argo, so I’ll probably use that, but I have to go to a Gourmet market to get it, which isn’t convenient.  Also, Bob’s Red Mill Baking Powder doesn’t contain aluminum, but I can’t get it here.  I ordered 4 bags of it over the internet, but the USPS lost my package.  :-(

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Posted: 06 June 2012 12:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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BTW, I have a muffin recipe that I’ve been baking one a week for a long time, using Argo baking powder.  They’ve always been nicely shaped, with a medium peak.  Just the last few times I made them, however, the muffins were very flat and also overflowed the pan.  Thinking that I had miscopied the baking powder quantities when I transferred the recipe into my computer, I steadily reduced the baking powder each time I made the recipe but the muffins came out just the same.  But then I recalled how quickly the batter had come together; usually, it takes a number of strokes to get everything moistened, but this happened in just one or two.  And the crumb of the muffins was sorta mushy.  The batter was clearly wetter than than it was before, and that lends itself to the behavior that my muffins exhibited.  I’m not sure how the muffins got wetter, since I weigh everything, but next time I plan to reduce the quantity of liquid.  I’m speculating that the last batch of flour had a higher moisture content.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks for the information, CharlesT. I will just have to try again with the Argo and carefully pay attention to how I am following the cupcake recipe and the other cake recipes. I must have messed up somewhere and not have realized it. I think that I was just concerned because of what I had read on the Internet about the compounds in different baking powders and because of how I noticed that the two brands seemed to react differently when dissolved in hot water. Also, I am sorry to hear about the post office losing your package, and good luck with your muffin recipe. I appreciate your reply.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 08:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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i have been using Rumford for decades since it is the same one the Rose uses and it is widely available and also aluminum free.  specially for pastry, pie crust using a baking powder containing aluminum will have a slight bitterness.  Calumet is also widely available and used, does contain aluminum, but you really can’t tell unless making pie crust or some other low in sugar desserts.  both, Rumford and Calumet have equal power and behavior.

but then, Argo came around.  it is also aluminum free and it is VERY SIMILAR to Rumford/Calumet.  i should say, in power, it is exactly the same.

the difference with Argo, is that is it TRUE double acting (more double acting than Rumford/Calumet).  meaning, part of it reacts in contact with liquid, and part in contact with heat.  how does this compare side by side to Rumford?  if you are very quick mixing your cake batter and quick baking it, you won’t see a darn difference.  but if you are slower mixing your cake batter (i am, as i need to read, rewrite, rework recipes), and the baking powder sits in contact with liquid much longer, you will notice that Rumford will loose a little power, while Argo does not!  a cake using Rumford/Calumet will have a less rise than a cake using Argo, but only when the cake batter (when the baking powder touches liquid) has been sitting for a while longer before baked.

for the average rule, i don’t use less baking powder when using Argo, but it is recommended if you are using Argo, to use a little less or to let the batter sit for a little longer prior baking.

i hope i make sense.  i can immediate tell when switching to Argo, that everything was a tad fluffier.

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Posted: 06 June 2012 10:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Wow, thanks for all that info, Hector.  That’s really helpful!!

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Posted: 07 June 2012 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks for all of your comments and suggestions, hectorwong. I really appreciate the information. I will have to keep experimenting and trying to compare the Clabber Girl and Argo side by side in the same baking products. Yesterday, I did make another batch of cupcakes with Clabber Girl, and they did not overflow in the pan, unlike the ones made with Argo, but maybe the previous time, I overfilled the cupcake liners (when I used the Argo) and did not realize it. Or, perhaps on that day, the oven temperature was off or I did not mix the batter properly. I am not sure. The Argo cupcakes, however, did seem fluffier. Anyway, thanks, again, for your help and for the discussion about baking powders and the different reaction rates of brands. It was enlightening.

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