If you enjoy baking cakes, you undoubtedly reach for a packet of baking powder every now and then. However, in American recipes, the terms “baking soda” or “baking powder” are commonly used. In colloquial language, American baking soda is often equated with German baking powder. Whether this mentioned baking soda can truly be replaced 1:1 with German baking powder, and what exactly natron and baking powder refer to, will be clarified in this post. Additionally, you'll receive 14 useful tips on how to use the miraculous substance, baking soda, in household chores, cosmetics, and for cleaning.
What is Baking Powder and How Does It Work?
Before we clarify the question of what the differences between baking powder, baking soda & Co. are, let's take a look at what baking powder actually is and what function it serves. According to the definition, baking powder is a so-called leavening agent and is typically used when the dough is supposed to rise – that is, increase in volume – during baking. This happens when, due to the influence of moisture and heat, carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is released.
Baking powder is a mixture that usually consists of three different components. It comprises a CO2 source (most commonly sodium bicarbonate or "natron"), an acidifying agent, and starch – a separating agent. The latter binds moisture and thus prevents premature CO2 development, in other words, a reaction between the natron and the acidifier.
Only through heat (e.g., in the oven) and moisture, does the sodium bicarbonate react with the acid and release carbon dioxide, creating small gas bubbles that cause the dough to rise.
Baking Powder and Natron Are Not the Same
Occasionally, you might come across “baking natron” in recipes. However, this cannot be replaced 1:1 with baking powder. As we've just determined, natron (along with two other components) is part of the baking powder mixture. If you don't have natron at hand, you can use three times the amount of baking powder instead. A quick example: if the recipe calls for a teaspoon of baking natron, you can use three teaspoons of baking powder instead. The only downside is that the flavor will be strongly influenced by the baking powder.
When to Use Natron and When to Use Baking Powder?
In order for the dough to rise beautifully, either natron or baking powder is used – depending on what the recipe calls for. However, this also has a specific reason that couldn't be more logical. You surely remember the three components of baking powder. The reaction between acidifying agent and natron produces carbon dioxide, which causes the dough to rise. This means that natron requires an acidic partner to release carbon dioxide.
If the dough already contains acidic ingredients, such as yogurt, buttermilk, or sour cream, baking natron is usually used, as it can react with the acidity of the ingredients.
Muffins or cupcakes, on the other hand, often do not contain acidic ingredients, which is why baking powder (with an acidic component) needs to be used to allow for the chemical reaction and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide.
Baking Soda and Baking Powder versus Natron and Backpulver
As mentioned earlier, terms like Baking Soda or Baking Powder are found – especially in American recipes. In a general sense, they can be translated or equated as follows:
- Baking Soda = Natron
- Baking Powder = Backpulver
Baking Soda or natron is also known in Germany by terms like Speisesoda, Speisenatron, Backsoda, or Backnatron.
In some recipes, you might also come across the term “Backin”. However, this is not a separate product but merely another name for baking powder. In the late 19th century, the pharmacist August Oetker began selling baking powder in smaller portions more suitable for private households. The baking powder in small amounts was eventually called “Backin” and sold under this name.
14 Uses for the Miracle Substance Baking Soda
When you hear the name “Baking Soda,” you primarily think of baking. However, this miracle substance shines not only in the kitchen – no, it also excels in other areas. What those areas are and where you can use baking soda perfectly, we'll show you now.
Baking Soda as a Household Helper
Baking soda, when combined with water and a bit of grated soap, becomes a versatile all-purpose cleaner. Simply pour the mixture into a spray bottle and add a dash of lemon juice and essential oils if desired. This will give you an effective cleaner that also leaves a pleasant scent.
You can also rely on the miraculous power of baking soda for a dirty oven. Mix baking soda with a bit of water in a 1:1 ratio to create a kind of paste. You can then apply this paste to soiled areas in the oven or burnt spots on the baking sheet. Let the baking soda and water paste soak overnight. The next day, you can easily remove the paste and dirt with a sponge. Don't forget to clean the treated areas with water afterwards. By the way, this method is also effective for removing stubborn food residues from pans or pots.
If you frequently struggle with clogged drains and are reluctant to use strong chemical cleaners, you can confidently turn to baking soda. To do this, simply pour one to two tablespoons of baking soda directly into the drain and follow it with about half a cup of vinegar. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda (it starts to bubble) and dissolves all the dirt in the pipe. After about 15 minutes, you can rinse with clear water.
You can also use baking soda when doing laundry – specifically as a fabric softener. Baking soda softens hard water and is therefore an excellent and natural alternative to conventional fabric softeners. Dissolve one to two teaspoons of baking soda (depending on water hardness) in 100 ml of water and add the solution to the fabric softener compartment.
Baking soda combats strong, unpleasant odors. The miracle substance absorbs and eliminates odors instead of just masking them. Simply place some baking soda in a small bag and add a few drops of essential oil. You can place the bag wherever unpleasant odors arise. Moreover, you can also eliminate odors from textiles or shoes. For items like pillows, cushions, or curtains that aren't suitable for the washing machine, a homemade fabric spray with baking soda can provide a natural solution. For shoes with unpleasant odors, you can, for example, pour some baking soda into the shoe, let it sit overnight, and then shake it out the next day. The bad odor should be a thing of the past.
Healing Powers of Baking Soda
Especially in summer, mosquitoes and other insects become more active again. Everyone knows that insect bites often swell and itch terribly. With a mixture of water and baking soda, you can greatly reduce the itching, swelling, and redness of the bite. Mix some water with baking soda and apply the paste to the bite.
Have you ever had a splinter so deep in the skin that you couldn't even remove it with tweezers? With a bit of baking soda, you can make it easier to remove these stubborn splinters in the future. Apply some baking soda to the affected area, dampen it with a few drops of water, and then cover it with a plaster. Let the baking soda and water work for a while. After about four hours, the skin will swell slightly, making the splinter more visible. You can then easily remove the splinter with tweezers.
Baking soda has an alkaline nature and thus acts as a neutralizer for acids. If you have stomach issues after a long night, dissolve two pinches of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it. The alkaline solution neutralizes the overacidified stomach and thus serves as a quick remedy for stomach problems.
Baking soda can also provide supportive relief for feeling bloated after a hearty meal or experiencing heartburn by neutralizing the responsible acids.
Baking Soda in Cosmetics
If you'd like to naturally lighten your hair a bit and avoid using chemical bleaching agents that strain your hair, you can turn to baking soda. With this miracle substance, you can gently and naturally lighten your hair. If you want a more intense result, you should repeat the procedure several times.
In the "Household Helpers" section, we already mentioned that baking soda can eliminate unpleasant odors. You can also take advantage of this property for smelly feet. Its antibacterial and odor-neutralizing effects ensure that unpleasant odors disappear and the skin becomes beautifully soft again. Just prepare a baking soda foot bath. Take about three teaspoons of baking soda and add them to warm water. You can soak your feet in the bath for 20-30 minutes.
Baking soda is also an ingredient in many toothpastes, especially in countries like the USA. With regular use, it helps eliminate discolorations caused by nicotine, tea, or coffee. If you want to gently whiten your teeth, you can, for example, brush them with pure baking soda once a week in addition to your regular toothpaste. Make sure the baking soda is very fine, as coarse baking soda can harm teeth and gums. If the baking soda is coarse-grained, you can grind it finely using a pestle and mortar. This way, you can achieve whiter teeth step by step within a few weeks.
You can also create a kind of soap with baking soda to remove annoying odors, dirt, and discolorations from hands and fingernails. Take about two tablespoons of baking soda and mix it with a few teaspoons of water to create a pasty mixture. Use this mixture to rub your hands and then rinse them with warm water. You can even remove nail polish residue this way.