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A question about a recipe: Blueberry, Oatmeal and Flaxseed Muffins

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I have a question about the recipe "Blueberry, Oatmeal and Flaxseed Muffins" from Merrill Stubbs. My question is: Most of my recipes that call for baking soda and baking powder (within the same recipe) call for more powder than soda. So I thought there was a typo in this recipe. Therefore, since I halved the recipe when I made it, I used 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda. They turned out beautiful in the pan, fluffy and rounded, the way I like a muffin to appear. So I wonder if you would be able to confirm that the recipe's amounts for baking powder and baking soda are in fact correct — or should be reversed. I would really like to know. Thank you.

asked by lalf over 3 years ago
7 answers 1929 views
84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added over 3 years ago

I agree that the ratio looks different from some, but the key here may be the two cups of buttermilk, which makes the batter more acidic. One rule of thumb I've heard is that for every cup of buttermilk in a recipe, you can use 2 teaspoons less baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon more baking soda.

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added over 3 years ago

Thanks, Chris, for your speedy answer! One thing, though, I don't want totally flat muffins (like those in the photos), which often results in using too little baking powder in a recipe with other rather 'weighty' ingredients. Any further inputs?

F8c5465c 5952 47d4 9558 8116c099e439  dscn2212

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 3 years ago

Both Baking powder and baking soda are not at all uncommon in recipes. Baking soda is called for when the recipe contains an acid that needs to be neutralized. Baking powder consists of baking soda and two acids, one of which is activated (begins producing carbon dioxide, in other words) by water and the other by heat. If a recipe contains an acid, baking soda in a ratio of 1/2 teaspoon for every 8 ounces of acidic component is added in order to neutralize the acid, creating again carbon dioxide. If baking soda were not added, the baking soda in the baking powder would be siphoned off by the acids, depriving the formula of its inherent leavening properties. I agree that the baking soda seems high at 2 teaspoons, inasmuch as 16 ounces of buttermilk would necessitate 1 teaspoon. Blueberries fall in the middle of the acidic end of the pH scale at 3.1 - 3.4, and they are left whole, so they really don't contribute significantly to the acidic components of the recipe. I like more rounded muffins, too, and I think you'd be fine using a full teaspoon of baking powder and 2 teaspoons of baking soda for a full recipe. And if you use dried fruits, be sure to hydrate them in hot water for 15 minutes before draining them and proceeding to mix.

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added over 3 years ago

This article about cocoa also has details of the relationship between acidity and the use of baking powder and baking soda, and might help you. (And has more than I knew about cocoa too.)

10be4d16 57cd 4f01 ad06 4095ca54f099  img 0731 version 2
added over 3 years ago

Hi susan g, thank you for the article reference, but also pls see my reply to Rochelle, under the "Comments" section for the recipe. BTW, just to add, my muffins exhibited no soapy or bitter flavor from too much b. soda or powder.

21cce3cd 8e22 4227 97f9 2962d7d83240  photo squirrel
added over 3 years ago

lalf, this is related to your question-- do you know the work of Kenji Alt Lopez at The Food Lab and Serious Eats? I just read a very long piece he did on ch chip cookies and all the components and their "purpose in life", incl bak soda and powder. Now, if this info could just FINally take root in my brain...!:

10be4d16 57cd 4f01 ad06 4095ca54f099  img 0731 version 2
added over 3 years ago

Hello, Le Bec Fin (from the restaurant in Philly?), and thank you for this link to a most interesting article. No, I am not familiar with Kenji Alt Lopez, but I am definitely familiar with SeriousEats. Although much of the information in the article's "Leavening" section is exactly what I read on Wiki, it was the link at the end of that section that brought the best info, at The Food Lab: Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda | Serious Eats that more directly and thoroughly addresses the reaction with buttermilk:

A pancake experiment is described, where 5 batches of pancakes are made using the same ingredient amounts in each, BUT "with varying amounts of baking soda, starting with none, and increasing in 1/8th teaspoon increments up to a full half teaspoon." The 5th batch, with the full 1/2 tsp of baking soda "browned far too quickly, lending it an acrid burnt flavor tinged with the soapy chemical aftertaste of unneutralized baking soda. Interestingly enough, this pancake was also flat (my bold and underline) and dense—the inordinate amount of baking soda reacts too violently when mixed into the batter." So maybe this is a partial answer to why my muffins, with more b. powder than soda, rose higher and were fluffier.

I also noted this point in the first article: "I found that baking powder generally produces cakier cookies that rise higher during baking, producing smoother, shinier tops, while soda yields cookies that are craggier and denser in texture."

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