When I started baking, years ago, I followed whatever recipes I could find because I was learning and you’ve got to begin somewhere. Today, when I pick up a recipe, I read it carefully, and before doing anything more, I think. I think a lot. I do math, I question the ingredients and I contemplate the possible ingredient substitutions. I wonder if there’s a better method or a way to make it my own. It’s the chemist in me, I suppose. So when I was researching baked doughnut recipes last month, I noticed that there were a lot of variations in the chemical leaveners used from one recipe to another: some called for baking soda, others baking powder, some called for a combination of both, and then there were the recipes that also included vinegar in the mix. So when I was working on my own doughnut recipe using Almond Breeze, I decided I might as well investigate and see if there was any benefit to using one or the other, or all of them. The thing is, all the recipes I tested out made perfectly good baked doughnuts, but I honestly felt that the flavour of the recipe containing baking powder and a touch of vinegar was the best: the almond flavour was the most pronounced. The other thing I noticed, not surprisingly, was that the recipes with a little extra baking soda browned better. That’s the Maillard reaction, which is faster at higher pH, a.k.a. when your batter has a little more baking soda in it (want more info about this? good thing I wrote about it here!). I figure that many recipes contain extra baking soda to speed up the browning process since baked doughnuts are only in the oven for a dozen or so minutes and therefore have a very pale look to them. Personally, I think that if you are going to glaze the doughnut anyways, the extra baking soda isn’t really all that necessary. Plus the difference in color is so minimal.
After all the doughnut experimenting was over, I thought it would be helpful to go over what baking soda and baking powder are since they can have a huge impact on your baking recipes. Check out my Kitchen Geekery article on Food Bloggers of Canada for a crash course on chemical leaveners.