Muffins a little flat? Cake like a doorstop? Here’s a simple 10 second trick to check whether your Baking Soda is still up to doing its job.
The Baking Soda Test
You know that dusty old box of baking soda in the pantry? The massive tub you bought with the intention of making DIY Homemade, all-natural cleaning products but you’ve only ever used it once.
A recipe asks for baking soda, and you think to yourself,”Hellaluya! I have some of that”.
Then, when your lovingly made muffins are in the oven, and not rising like they should – you reach for your phone and search trusty Google for ‘why my muffins didn’t rise’ ... and come up with the 22,487,658 potential reasons Why, including the possibility your Baking Soda is past its use by date.
You check the box, but there’s no expiration date.
Nothing to tell you whether you bought the pack last decade or last week.
So, what is Baking Soda anyway?
A shoutout to junior Science Class: Baking soda is a naturally occuring chemical compound called Sodium Bicarbonate that’s mined in crystal form and ground to a soft powder.
Remember the difference between an acid and an alkaline? No?Meneither. All we need to remember here is that baking soda is an alkaline. Which means it’s not an acid. The high alkaline make up, means that it works well in cleaning products, beauty products, as a mouthwash, insect bite soother and weed killer.
Baking Soda is also an extremely effective way to get your baked goods to rise (or leaven). It’s often used in place of Baking Powder in a recipe that contains an acid ingredient (this is the important bit – your recipe MUST have an acid ingredient for it to work).
How it Works to make your Baking Rise: When Baking soda (an alkaline) combines with an acid incredient in your recipe (Common Acidic ingredients include: vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, yogurt, and cream of tartar), it reacts to form small bubbles of carbon dioxide which get trapped inside the batter (muffins, cakes, breads), inflating it like little balloon pockets and causing it to rise.
Does Baking Soda Expire?
Technically, if baking soda is stored correctly it can last forever. However, over time it does lose it’s leavening potency (it’s ability to react with an acid to produce those lovely carbon dioxide bubbles). Which is the reason we use it in baking.
The general consensus for baking soda efficiency is this: You can keep it in the pantry in an unopened package for two years, and six months for an opened package. After that … well, this leads to flat cakes and sad baking. And we don’t want that, do we?
The problem is, that most baking soda packages don’t have an expiration date. So, unless you actually scribble the date on your Baking Soda box, you can’t be certain how long it’s been sitting in the pantry or whether it’s still good to use for baking.
The Baking Soda Test
There is a little test you can do to see if your Baking Soda is still good to go.
And for your viewing pleasure (and my pure delight at seeing this little experiment in action. Seriously, it’s so Cool!!!) I made a little video. But I encourage you to give it a go yourself – it actually works!! And you never get tired of it.
You’re going to need:
- A clean, glass bowl or cup
- An acid ingredient (I’m using 1 tablespoon of vinegar here)
- 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
Instructions: Pour 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda — if it’s fresh, the mixture should fizz and bubble instantly.
If the reaction is slow to react or less than vigorous, then it’s no good for baking, although could still be used for cleaning or beauty products.
WATCH THE VIDEO: THE BAKING SODA TEST
How to Store Your Baking Soda
To keep your baking soda in optimal condition for as long as possible, it’s best to store it in a cool, dry place. Baking soda can react with heat (if it’s stored near the stove) or steam (if you keep it near the dishwasher or kettle). I keep mine in an airtight container in my pantry and this seems to prolong it’s effectiveness for up to a year.