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Leavening Agents

Some ingredients play a very vital role in baking. Leavening agents or raising agents are those ingredients which are responsible for the (inside) chemical changes in baking. Some of these are available naturally such as yeast, whereas some of these are produced by chemicals such as baking soda. They are added to batters and doughs to help them rise. The action of moisture, heat, or acidity (or combination of three) triggers a reaction with the raising agent to produce carbon dioxide gas, which becomes trapped as it bubbles through the dough. When you put the particular product for cooking or when the dough cooks the bubbles become set in the mixture, as the protein in the flour coagulates upon coming in the contact with the heat thus giving breads, cakes, scones, etc. a soft sponge-like texture.

Here I am discussing about some commonly used leavening agents in bakery:

Baking Powder

Baking powder is used as raising agent for a number of doughs and batters such as cakes, scones, puddings, and biscuits. Baking powder is made from a combination of alkaline and acid substances. The composition of baking powder is usually of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda which react when they come in contact with moisture and warmth to produce carbon dioxide gas in form of small bubbles. Baking powder is usually a single acting agent, which means it reacts as soon as it comes into contact with any liquid. Hence, it is extremely important to work quickly once milk or water comes into contact with dry ingredients so that the resulting carbon dioxide does not get a chance to escape. One should always store baking powder in airtight containers free from any moisture because slight presence of moisture will start the reaction in it.


It is also known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda or cooking soda, which is used in a variety of dishes such as biscuits, batters, puddings, etc. As mentioned earlier it can be mixed with cream of tartar (a fine powder extracted from the tartaric acid that crystallizes in wine casks during fermentation of grapes) to produce baking powder. It usually reacts in the presence of any acidic medium such as sour milk, buttermilk, or orange juice, which causes carbon dioxide gas to release causing the desired results in baked goods. The shelf life of baking soda can easily be around 3 years if stored in a cool, dry place, however, if it gets damp or moist it will loose its effectiveness. The best way of testing baking soda is to take a little powder and add lemon juice to it; it will immediately start to fizz which also indicates that the powder has been stored properly as stale powder will not give you the desired result.


It is a single cell fungus that feeds on simple sugars to produce carbon dioxide, gas, and alcohol. It is used to ferment fruits, grains, etc. to produce wine, beer, and other spirits. It is also used as leavening agent to produce a wide range of bakery products. There are two major types of food yeasts which are commonly available, one is non-leavening yeast known as brewer’s yeast, while the other is leavening yeast known as bakers’s yeast. Baker’s yeast is sold in fresh blocks which must be used within a few weeks of purchase, or as dried granules which can be stored up to a year. Fresh leavening yeast may also be sold as starter yeast which is traditionally used to make sour dough or sweet breads known as starter breads.

This was a little information about some commonly used leavening/raising agents in baking. Science behind baking is interesting and informative, it also helps you to create magic in your kitchen. For any query contact us and we will get back as soon as possible.

Happy Baking!

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