Potassium bicarbonate enhances chemically leavened baked foods with a needed "nutrient of concern" as well as a bit of perceived sweetness.
Americans have a sodium problem: We consume far too much. Every time new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DAG) come out, they challenge us to cut down on sodium intake. Keep it under 2,300 mg per day (1,500 mg for those with hypertension), said the 2015 edition, but average daily consumption still tops 3,400 mg. This excessive amount contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.

Nearly three-quarters of dietary sodium comes from processed foods, and baked goods are listed among its Top 10 sources. The major culprit is salt, but some sodium is native to many bakery ingredients. In chemical leavening systems, that includes sodium bicarbonate, the source of the carbon dioxide gas that leavens cakes, muffins, pancakes, cookies, crackers, even pizza crusts.

But slide down the periodic table of elements a row beyond sodium, and you find potassium. It forms potassium bicarbonate, also a source of leavening gases, and one without any sodium component whatsoever.

“A baked food with a 100-g serving size and 1% sodium bicarbonate gets 273 mg sodium from the sodium bicarbonate,” explained Rob Berube, manager, technical service, Church & Dwight Co., Inc. Replacing the sodium bicarbonate with potassium bicarbonate eliminates all of that. “The more sodium bicarbonate replaced or the larger the serving size, the greater the reduction,” he said. “Church & Dwight’s Flow K potassium bicarbonate provides equivalent leavening performance without contributing sodium to the product formula.”

The potassium in Flow K is significant, too. It was named as a “nutrient of concern” by DGA 2015, meaning that Americans don’t get enough in their current daily diets. Potassium bicarbonate contains 39% potassium, so each gram contributes 390 mg potassium, more than 10% of the Daily Value, set at 3,500 mg by FDA in a 2013 guidance document.

“The potassium it contains is associated with positive, healthful claims for blood pressure reduction and cutting the risk of stroke,” Mr. Berube said. FDA approved such health claims for potassium in 2000. “It also enhances sweetness in baked goods. It can be used in any formula where sodium bicarbonate is used,” he added.

Using Flow K requires an adjustment in dosage. The molecular weight of potassium bicarbonate is 100.12 vs. 84.01 for sodium bicarbonate, or 19% higher. “Both materials release the same amount of carbon dioxide,” Mr. Berube said. “So, to get the same amount of leavening gas, 19% more potassium bicarbonate is required.”

Partial replacement is also possible, allowing greater flexibility for bakery formulators. Mr. Berube explained, “If the formulator’s sodium reduction goals have largely been achieved by salt reduction and conversion of leavening acids to non-sodium analogues, it may not be necessary to convert all of the sodium bicarbonate to potassium bicarbonate.

“Ammonium bicarbonate is another sodium-free option for scratch-baking applications with or without a leavening acid,” he added. “Keep in mind that ammonium bicarbonate use without a leavening acid is restricted to low-moisture products to limit ammonia retention.” Typical applications are cookies, crackers and biscuits.

Of course, leavening systems also include leavening acids, and a number contain sodium. For an update, review the on-demand webinar “Formulating leavened baked goods,” sponsored by Church & Dwight and Innophos, available at www.bakingbusiness.com, or visitwww.ahperformance.com.