Baking powder is an essential ingredient in many breads and cakes. It contains both acidic and alkaline components, which react with each other when wet, when exposed to heat in the oven, or both. This reaction releases carbon dioxide bubbles into the batter, causing it to rise.
See the power of baking powder firsthand by conducting a simple comparison experiment. Make four batches of cornbread, all identical except for one tiny ingredient: baking powder! One will have no baking powder, one will have the normal amount, one will have twice the normal amount, and one will have baking soda instead. This is a great way to put your kids' math, science, and cooking skills to work, and get a hands-on lesson on how baking powder works.
What You Do:
- Ask your child to do the math to divide the cornbread recipe into quarters. Have him write out his answers on paper. Review that they're correct before proceeding to step two.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
- Start with plain cornbread with no baking powder or baking soda. With your child's help, mix up a quarter recipe of the cornbread. Mix the dry ingredients together first, followed by the wet ingredients. Note that you will need to break and beat an egg, then pour just half of it into the bowl. Reserve the other half of the egg for the next batch.
- Repeat step two, but this time add ¾ teaspoon baking powder (the correct amount) to the dry ingredients.
- Repeat step two, but this time add 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder (double the normal amount) to the dry ingredients.
- Repeat step two, but this time add ¾ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients.
- Grease your muffin tins and fill them with cornbread batter. Each quarter-batch bowl of batter should fill three muffin cups. On a sheet of paper, have your child note where you put the batter containing no baking powder (step 2), correct baking powder (step 3), extra baking powder (step 4), and baking soda (step 5).
- Bake the cornbread in the oven for 18 minutes.
- Remove the cornbread from the oven and have your child compare the various batches. Taste a muffin from each group, then ask him to describe the taste and texture.
The cornbread with no leavening is likely to be dense and flat, but similar in flavor to the recipe with the correct amount of baking soda. The muffins with too much baking powder may taste bitter, whereas those with baking soda will probably have a salty or slightly soapy flavor. Isn't the power of baking powder amazing?