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Chapter 12 Using chemical and steam leaveners.


After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

* Describe what a chemical leavener is.

* Explain the role leaveners play in baked goods.

* Differentiate between baking powder, baking soda, and ammonium carbonate.

* Describe the roles of air and steam in the leavening of baked goods.

* Define a quick bread.

* Describe the role carbon dioxide plays in the leavening of quick breads, cakes, and cookies.

* Demonstrate how to work with chemical and steam leavening agents by preparing the recipes at the end of this chapter.


ammonium carbonate

baking powder

baking soda

chemical leaveners

double-acting baking powder

eclair paste or choux paste

neutralization reaction

pate a choux


quick breads

single-acting baking powder


In Chapters 8, 9, and 10, you have seen just how important yeast is as a leavening agent in preparing such baked goods as breads, pizza, cinnamon rolls, croissants, and rich coffee cakes.

In this chapter, other leavening agents are discussed. Quick breads, cakes, and cookies use chemical leaveners such as baking powder, baking soda, and ammonium carbonate to help them rise.

Chemical leaveners react much more quickly than yeast in leavening baked goods, and there is no waiting period needed to allow batters or doughs to ferment.

Quick breads refer to a category of breads that are leavened with carbon dioxide gas from chemical leaveners. They include such baked goods as banana breads, short cakes, biscuits, and muffins. They are, in effect, quick to prepare.

Besides chemical leaveners, air and steam are also important leavening agents. Air is always present whenever mixing occurs. Steam, produced during the baking process, is an important leavening agent for specialty baked goods such as eclair paste, popovers, and puff pastry.

Specific mixing methods for quick breads and cakes are discussed in Chapters 13 and 14. This chapter is an introduction to various leavening agents other than yeast and their applications in specific baked goods.

Chemical Leaveners

A leavener is a substance that helps the mixed ingredients rise in the oven. Leaveners are added as ingredients in both quick breads and yeast breads. There are different types of leaveners. Chemical leaveners are, in fact, chemicals that react with the liquid ingredients within the recipe and the heat of the oven to produce carbon dioxide gas. The gas bubbles expand in the oven and push against batters and doughs to help the product to rise. Chemical leaveners are used in many baked goods like cakes, cookies, and quick breads. There is no rising time needed. Chemical leaveners include baking soda, baking powder, and ammonium carbonate.

Quick breads may include banana bread, lemon bread, date nut bread, scones, biscuits, shortcakes, and blueberry muffins.

Acids, Bases, and Neutralization Reactions

Before discussing acids or bases, the concept of pH must be defined. pH is a measurement used to describe how basic or acidic a substance is. The range is between 0 and 14. Water has a pH of 7 and is considered neutral; anything less than 7 is referred to as acidic and anything greater than 7 is referred to as basic.

An easy way to think of an acidic ingredient is to think of foods that are sour like citrus juices (e.g., lemon or orange juice), vinegar, sour cream, and yogurt. Other acidic ingredients include buttermilk, brown sugar, honey, molasses, chocolate, and cocoa powder (not Dutch processed).

The most common bases used in baking include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and ammonium carbonate.

When an equal amount of an acid is combined with an equal amount of a base, a neutralization reaction occurs. This means that, as the two substances are combined, they form a mixture containing salt and water (Figure 12-1). This mixture has a pH of 7, which is neutral (neither acidic nor basic). Neutralization reactions occur in batters that contain chemical leaveners and they ultimately help baked goods to rise.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a chemical known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda. When baking soda comes in contact with moisture and an acid, a neutralization reaction takes place. This reaction causes not only salt and water to form but also carbon dioxide bubbles (Figure 12-2). This last by-product is most important to the baker.

The carbon dioxide gas bubbles form throughout the batter or dough, expanding as they are heated in the oven. This expansion of gases pushes up against the batter or dough, helping it to rise.

It is helpful to find which ingredient acts as the acid in a recipe for any quick bread or cake. For example, if a batter is acidic because of one of its ingredients like cocoa powder or buttermilk, adding baking soda helps the batter to rise and neutralizes the batter's acidity at the same time. Sometimes, a slight tangy taste is desired. In that case, a smaller amount of baking soda can be used so that some of the batter's acidity can be maintained.

When an acid combines with baking soda, the reaction that forms carbon dioxide is immediate; therefore it is important to bake batters and doughs containing baking soda as quickly as possible or risk losing the leavening power.

If too much baking soda is used, an off flavor from the salt residue becomes noticeable.

As a general rule, for every cup of flour (approximately 4 ounces; 115 g) in the recipe, approximately 1/4 teaspoon (1 g) of baking soda is added.


Over time, the shelf life of baking soda is shortened because it absorbs moisture from the air, which weakens it. A quick test can be done to determine whether it is still active. Add a small amount of baking soda to some vinegar. If the baking soda is active, the mixture should foam. If kept unopened, it should last approximately 2 years.



Baking Powder

Baking powder is a mixture of different leaveners that include baking soda and one or more acids. Because the acid is already in the baking powder, acidic ingredients in a dough or batter are not necessary for carbon dioxide to be produced as they are in baking soda. Cornstarch is usually added to baking powder to prevent clumping (by absorbing excess moisture) and to keep the active ingredients separated to prevent their reacting and reducing the leavening power. There are two types of baking powders: single-acting baking powder and double-acting baking powder (Figure 12-3).

Single-acting baking powder is actually baking soda and cream of tartar (an acid). It needs only to come into contact with moisture from liquid ingredients to react. This leaves little time to get the batter into pans and into the oven before all the carbon dioxide gas is lost into the air. For this reason, single-acting baking powder is known as fast-acting and is rarely used.

Double-acting baking powder reacts twice. It requires both moisture and heat to react and is referred to as slow-acting. Once double-acting baking powder comes into contact with liquid ingredients, it produces an initial group of carbon dioxide gas bubbles. It reacts again once the batter or dough is heated in the oven. Double-acting baking powder contains two or more acids that react twice. The first reaction allows one acid to react with the baking soda before it goes into the oven. The second reaction uses another acid, which requires heat from the oven to react with the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to form carbon dioxide gas. This makes double-acting baking powder more versatile than baking soda.

As a guide, for every 1 cup (4 ounces; 115 g) of flour, between 1 and 11/4 teaspoons (4 to 5 g) of baking powder is added.


To test the activity of baking powder, stir a small amount into hot water. If the baking powder is active, the mixture should foam and fizz. Baking powder has a shelf life of approximately 18 months if kept covered at room temperature.

Ammonium Carbonate

The third chemical leavener is ammonium carbonate. Ammonium carbonate, also known as ammonium bicarbonate or baking ammonia, is not as widely used as baking soda or baking powder.



Ammonium carbonate, in the presence of moisture and heat, reacts to produce ammonia, carbon dioxide gas, and water (Figure 12-4). All three of these by-products can act as leaveners. Ammonia and carbon dioxide are already gases, and water, when heated, becomes steam, which is also a gas. Because gases expand in the oven leavening takes place.

Ammonium carbonate is best used in small baked goods such as dry cookies, crackers, or eclair or choux paste in which the baked good will be baked at a high temperature until it is dry and crisp. The smaller the baked good with more surface area exposed and the longer the baking process, the more ammonia gas will evaporate off. This decreases the chance of the residual ammonia leaving an off smell.

Ammonium carbonate is used widely in Europe. It should not be used in moister baked goods such as cakes, muffins, biscuits, or soft cookies.

The Important Role of Air in Leavening

It is important to recognize the critical role that air plays in leavening. Air is incorporated into most mixtures just through the act of mixing the ingredients together. Mixing can take many forms such as stirring, creaming, or beating.

Air becomes an extremely important team player when using chemical leaveners. As ingredients are mixed, air is incorporated in the form of small cells or bubbles. These bubbles of air are evenly distributed throughout the batter or dough, along with other ingredients and chemical leaveners.

In the oven, carbon dioxide bubbles form and seek out these small air bubbles, enlarging them and leavening the baked good. The presence of chemical leaveners does not create new air bubbles; they just help enlarge the ones that already exist.

If the smaller air bubbles were not present, any carbon dioxide gas that formed would escape from the batter or dough because it would have nowhere to go but into the air.

Steam Leavening

Almost all baked goods use steam as a leavening agent, either as the sole leavener or in conjunction with other leaveners like yeast or chemical leaveners. That is because many ingredients within baked goods contain some form of water. Citrus juices, eggs, and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cream all contain a certain amount of water.

When water is heated in the oven to 212[degrees]F (100[degrees]C), it becomes a gas. This gas is known as steam. Steam is a powerful force that can expand over 1000 times its original volume. The result of the steam expanding under pressure within batters and doughs causes them to expand and rise. This leavens the baked good.

Air also works as a team player with steam much like it does with chemical leaveners. As the steam seeks out the small air bubbles in the batter, the air bubbles expand and leaven the baked good.

Steam is the exclusive leavening agent in certain specialty baked goods such as popovers (a specialty quick bread), eclair paste, and puff pastry, a laminated dough. (See Chapter 10 for more on puff pastry and steam leavening.)


Popovers are a puffy quick bread with a brown exterior and a hollow, eggy center. They grow especially tall in the oven when the batter is poured into a special pan called a popover pan. This pan has spaces that are deeper and spaced farther apart than the average muffin pan. Typical popover batter is very thin. It is similar in consistency to heavy cream. It contains only a few ingredients, two of which are milk and eggs. Unlike typical quick breads that use a flour with a low-protein content, popovers use bread flour. Bread flour helps develop the much needed gluten, which stretches and expands as steam is produced. Steam is produced from the liquid ingredients in the batter. This causes the interior to puff and become hollow. Popovers are baked at a very high temperature. This high temperature (425[degrees]F; 219[degrees]C) helps the liquid within the batter to form a great deal of steam. The steam expands, causing the popovers to rise. Because the pans are deep, the batter climbs the sides quickly and continues to grow, forming a high, puffed exterior. Steam develops inside breaking apart some of the egg proteins, forming a large space within. The gluten combined with the cooked egg proteins help form structure so the popover will not collapse.


Popovers (Chapter 13, page 302)

Eclair Paste or Choux Paste

Eclair paste or choux paste is another steam-leavened specialty dough that is used to produce cream puffs, eclairs, and other varieties of pastries that can be filled with whipped cream, fruit, mousse, ice cream, or savory fillings. The dough is also known as "pate a choux." Pate a choux is a French term that means "cabbage paste," so deemed because of the cabbage-like appearance of small cream puffs. The dough may be formed into a number of various shapes. When eclair paste is formed into small rounds or cream puffs, they may be referred to as profiteroles.

Eclair paste is so versatile that it can also be piped out into thin shapes that can be baked until crisp and used as a garnish on top of sweet and savory foods. Or, the dough can be deep-fried and served as a type of doughnut. It can also be used to make savory cheese puffs that can be made by mixing cheese into the cream puff dough before baking. Another special way to prepare eclair paste is in the shape of swans. Eclair paste is used to form necks, which are mounted on the specially shaped cream puff "bodies" to resemble birds. The neck and wings stick into whatever fills the swan (whipped cream, mousse, or ice cream). Another special use for eclair paste is to prepare a tower of pastry cream-filled cream puffs held together and drizzled with caramel, known as croquembouche (Chapter 17).

Typical eclair paste always includes a liquid such as water or milk, a fat such as butter, flour, eggs, and a little salt. Some recipes may contain sugar. Although popover batter and eclair paste dough look very different, steam does the job of leavening for each. The liquid ingredients (water, milk, and eggs) in the eclair paste form steam in the oven and help the dough to rise. The procedure to make eclair paste is simple and can be started right in a saucepan.

A liquid like water or milk is brought to a rolling boil with butter, salt, and sugar. The flour is stirred in quickly, causing the starches in the flour to swell and absorb all of the liquid at once. The dough should be very stiff in the beginning to allow it to hold as many eggs as possible and still hold its shape.

Egg whites and sometimes ammonium carbonate may be added to help make the puffs dry and crispy. Whole eggs are added for leavening and to provide structure. The more eggs that are added to the dough, the lighter the finished puffs will be because whole eggs hold some air and also contribute to leavening. If too many eggs are added, the dough will be too thin and will not be able to hold its shape. Between the eggs and the higher protein content in the bread flour, a firmer structure will be formed. Steam expands the puffs while egg protein sets the structure. As the egg proteins denature and uncoil from the heat of the oven, steam begins to form. The steam puts pressure on the proteins to expand and eventually break apart, leaving a hollow space within the puff. The proteins at this point have cooked enough so the structure of the puff is set and does not collapse.


Eclair paste must be baked until golden brown and crisp or else it will soften and collapse once it is cooled.


Cream Puffs (This chapter, page 276)

Cream Puff Swans (This chapter, page 279)

Two Methods to Bake Eclair Paste

There are two schools of thought when baking eclair paste.

One method is to bake the dough at an extremely high temperature, approximately 425[degrees]F (219[degrees]C) for a short period of time to cause steam to form quickly and then lower the temperature to approximately 375[degrees]F (190[degrees]C) to finish the baking process. This causes the egg protein to coagulate and form a set structure.

The other method starts the baking process at a low temperature, approximately 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C). Once the eclair paste is in the oven, the temperature is raised immediately to a high temperature of approximately 450[degrees]F (230[degrees]C). Steam quickly forms, and the puffs rise. After approximately 10 to 15 minutes, the temperature is turned back down to 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C) to dry the puffs and brown them. Starting at a lower temperature gives the dough time to rise higher before the egg proteins actually set and a hard outer crust forms. This second method is used in this text.

Makes approximately 30 to
36 small cream puffs

Lessons demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to prepare a steam-leavened specialty baked good made from eclair

* A high proportion of water-based liquid ingredients produce enough
  steam to leaven.

* A high-protein flour is used to give structure.

* Whole eggs leaven and add structure.

* Egg whites are added for crispness and lightness.

* Great volume is obtained by starting the baking process at a lower
  temperature, which allows the cream puffs to rise higher before they
  become set and form a crust.

                    MEASUREMENTS                INGREDIENTS

U.S.                      METRIC    BAKER'S %

6 fluid    3/4 cup        180 mL      127%      water
4 ounces   1/2 cup        115 g        81%      unsalted butter
           1/4 teaspoon     1.25 g      1%      salt
           2 teaspoons     10 g         7%      sugar
5 ounces   1 cup          115 g       100%      bread flour
2 each                     94 g        66%      large whole eggs
2 each                     56 g        40%      large egg whites
                                       421.9%   Total Cream Puffs

1. Preheat the oven to 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C).

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a
   vigorous boil. Remove saucepan from heat. Add the flour all at once
   and stir mixture quickly with a wooden spoon (Figure 12-5). This
   will cause a ball of dough to form immediately. Continue to cook
   the mixture for approximately one minute until it forms a ball and
   pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat
   and allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes to approximately
   130[degrees]F (54[degrees]C) to prevent the eggs from cooking as they
   are added to the mixture.


3. Transfer the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the
   paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed. Add 2 whole eggs,
   one at a time, blending well after adding each egg (Figure 12-6).
   Then add 2 egg whites, one at a time, blending well after each
   addition. The dough should hold its shape somewhat and should not
   be too loose (Figure 12-7). The color of the dough should be
   yellowish from the butter and eggs, and it should look glossy.

4. Using a large round tip placed into a pastry bag, or a 1 teaspoon
   (5 mL) measure, pipe or spoon walnut-sized balls of dough onto 2
   half sheet pans covered with parchment paper, spacing the balls
   about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart (Figure 12-8). With your fingertips
   moistened with water, touch the tops of the cream puff dough to
   smooth the shape (Figure 12-9). The shape should be a small
   1-inch (2.5 cm) round.

5. Place the sheet pans in the oven at 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C).
   Close the oven door and raise the oven temperature to 450[degrees]F
   (230[degrees]C). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until well puffed. Turn
   the oven down to 300[degrees]F (149[degrees]C) and bake for another
   15 to 20 minutes until crisp and browned. Cut open one of the puffs
   to see if it is dry inside. If not, continue baking.

6. Remove from the oven and with a small, sharp knife, poke a small
   hole into each cream puff (Figure 12-10). This helps dry out the
   moist inside of each puff and allows them to cool faster. Cream
   puffs can be baked one day ahead and kept covered in an airtight
   container at room temperature.







Three great ways to serve pate a choux:

* Using ice cream and one recipe of Rich Chocalte Sauce (Chapter 20),
  cut each pate a choux in half crosswise and fill with small scoops
  of ice cream. Place three or four filled puffs in each dessert bowl
  and generously pour warm ganache frosting over the top. Makes six to
  seven servings.

* Use as a base for the Croquembouche recipe in Chapter 17.

* Use as a garnish on top of a dessert by piping the dough into various
  designs onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and baking at 375[degrees]F
  (190[degrees]C) for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned.


Makes approximately 13
4-inch (10-cm) long swans

Lesson demonstrated in this recipe:

* How to shape eclair paste to form pastries resembling swans.


Prepare one recipe of eclair paste from the recipe for Cream Puffs.


Creating the swan's body

Place all but 3 ounces (1/3 cup; 105 g) of the dough into a pastry bag
fitted with a large star tip (approximately 14 mm). Hold the pastry
bag at 90 degrees to a parchment-lined sheet pan and pipe out a 2
1/2-inch (61/4-cm) long shell making an up and over motion (Figure
12-11A and B). Pull back so that the end is tapered.

Continue to make approximately 12 more tapered shells leaving a space
between each swan body.

Creating the swan's neck and head

Place the remaining dough into a pastry bag fitted with a small round
tip (approximately 1/8 inch; 3 mm). Pipe a small round ball (the head)
and then continue to form a thin letter S (the neck) on a second sheet
pan covered with parchment paper (Figure 12-12). Place the tip into the
round ball (the head) at the top of the S and, squeezing gently,
quickly pull back to form the swan's beak (Figure 12-13). Repeat the
procedure until there are as many swan necks as there are bodies
(with extra in case of breakage).





Bake the swan bodies as directed in the Cream Puff recipe. Because the
swan necks are thinner, they need to be baked at a lower temperature
of 375[degrees]F (190[degrees]C) for 8 to 10 minutes or until they are a
pale brown and firm to the touch. Remove and allow to cool.


            MEASUREMENTS                   INGREDIENTS

            U.S.                METRIC

            3/4 teaspoon          2.25 g   unflavored gelatin
3/4 fluid   1 1/2 tablespoons    22 mL     cold water
12 fluid    1 1/2 cups          360 mL     heavy cream, cold
3 ounces    3/4 cup             100 g      confectioners' sugar,
                                           sifted if lumpy plus more
                                           for dusting
            1 1/2 teaspoons       7.5 mL   vanilla extract

1. In a small heatproof bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Stir
   and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.

2. Melt the gelatin over a hot water bath until it is completely
   liquefied. Remove the gelatin from the heat and whisk 1/2 fluid
   ounce (1 tablespoon; 15 mL) heavy cream into the gelatin to cool.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whip attachment to beat
   the remaining heavy cream until it forms soft peaks.

4. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and then the melted gelatin
   and cream mixture along with the vanilla extract. Beat until stiff
   peaks form. Do not overbeat.


Cream puff swans should
be refrigerated. They are
best consumed the same
day they are prepared. If
they need to be stored
overnight, do not insert the
necks into the bodies until
right before serving as
refrigeration for over 4
hours softens them. Leave
the necks at room
temperature, covered in an
airtight container.


1. Cut each cooled swan body in half crosswise. Cut the top portion
   of the body lengthwise to form two wings. Leave the bottom half

2. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round or star tip, pipe
   the whipped cream into the bottom of the swan body. Gently insert
   a wing into the cream on either side (Figure 12-14).

3. Insert a neck into the cream (Figure 12-15). Repeat with the
   remaining swans. Dust the swans with confectioners' sugar (Figure





Review Questions

1. Name the three leavening agents discussed in this chapter.

2. How do baking powder and baking soda work in making a baked good rise?

3. Name three acidic ingredients that could react with baking soda.

4. How does steam leaven?

5. Why is it important to bake a quick bread right after it is mixed?

6. Why is baking powder more versatile than baking soda in quick bread recipes?

7. Why is ammonium carbonate used only for small, dry baked goods?

8. Which chemical leaveners require heat to make them react?

9. What role does air play in helping steam and chemical leaveners to leaven baked goods?


Professional Profile


Deborah Gordon

Baking and Pastry Instructor

Florida Community College at Jacksonville

Institute of the South for Hospitality and Culinary Arts

Jacksonville, FL

1. Question: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in baking and pastry?

Answer: I realized I wanted to go into this field when I was 19 years old. I used to make homemade confections and give them as gifts. I also enjoyed making and decorating cakes for family and friends.

2. Question: Was there a person or event that influenced you to go into this line of work?

Answer: My mother influenced my love of cooking and baking. She was self-taught. Her mother passed when she was very young and she was an only child. She is one of the best and most creative cooks I know, even compared to those who went to culinary school.

3. Question: What did you find most challenging when you first began working in baking and pastry?

Answer: Making yeast dough was a challenge for me. It is not my strong suit.

4. Question: Where and when was your first practical experience in a professional baking setting?

Answer: My first experience was about 7 years ago at Ruth's Chris Steak House. I was the pastry chef.

5. Question: How did this first experience affect your later professional development?

Answer: I loved it. It helped me to realize my strengths and weaknesses.

6. Question: Who were your mentors when you were starting out?

Answer: My mentor was, of course, my mother. I have a lot of admiration for her natural abilities.

7. Question: What would you list as your greatest rewards?

Answer: My greatest reward has to be the satisfaction I got from opening my own retail bakery and gourmet shop and being skilled enough to run it completely on my own.

8. Question: What traits do you consider essential for anyone entering the field?

Answer: You must be responsible and be able to multitask. You have to be willing to work hard, often working long hours without a break.

9. Question: If there was one message you would impart to all students in this field what would that be?

Answer: If you don't love it, don't do it. In this field it is a lot of hard work for, sometimes, very little reward. So, if you don't love it you won't last. I would also advise anyone going into baking and pastry to set goals high and try to learn as much as possible from each place that you work.
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Author:Sokol, Gail
Publication:About Professional Baking
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Chapter 11 Working with fats in pies and tarts.
Next Article:Chapter 13 Quick bread mixing methods.

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