Why we don’t use deer antlers to leaven our cakes any more

Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.

Baking powder is a somewhat modern leavening agent. For centuries, bakers used hartshorn, made from ground deer antlers. Photo by Rainer Zenz.

King Arthur knows what’s up with baking.

The Vermont-based flour company has (wisely) expanded its customer base by providing not just recipes, but all kinds of helpful information about how baking works.

For our Year of Baking story tomorrow, I used King Arthur’s base scone recipe to make my own strawberry scone, and in the process of researching the difference between scones and shortcakes, I found an incredible helpful article about leavening.

(“Ooooo, leavening!” I can hear your excitement through the computer, my friends.)

If you’ve baked even a handful of times, you know that there’s a difference between baking soda and baking powder, and if you’re an above-average cook, you’ll know that’s because baking powder has cream of tartar, which activates the release of carbon dioxide without the addition of an acid. Baking soda relies on something like buttermilk to “turn on” its leavening powders, but baking powder does not.

That’s why so many recipes today call for baking powder instead of baking soda, unless the baked good needs an extra lift, and then you might find both.

That King Arthur article also includes all kinds of other info about what bakers used before commercial baking powder and soda was available (hartshorn, made with deer antlers), where baking soda comes from today (Wyoming! Who knew?) and how to know if your baking powder has lost its mojo.

Even if you think you know everything about baking, check it out.

Your quick breads will thank you.

 

 

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