Sometimes baked foods just need the quick, consistent rise that chemical leavening provides rather than — or sometimes in addition to — yeast. Cakes, muffins, crackers, biscuits, cookies, breadsticks, waffles and even pizza crust all depend on these agents for their characteristic rise.

Chemical leavening ingredients don’t just help cakes spring up in the oven, though. These ingredients also affect flavor, color, texture, shelf life and, of course, the ingredient list on the label. Bakers must also choose between a ready-made baking powder or customized leavening agents, and if they go with the latter, which leavening agents will they use? These decisions hinge on the final product characteristics, production conditions and employees’ know-how as well as label requirements the baker has in mind.

Choosing between a customized or ready-made solution largely depends on the application and the staff’s technical knowledge.

“When using individual components, personnel at the bakery must have the skills to formulate leavening systems, based upon neutralizing values and reaction rates of leavening acids,” said Nita Livvix, senior food scientist and technical support, Clabber Girl.

Getting the most out of a chemical leavening system requires a thorough understanding of the process and the finished product a baker is looking for. The chemical reaction has to occur at the appropriate time in the process to get the full effect and benefits. Individual leavening agents give bakers more control over that reaction.

“One must consider the length of time for each step, from the point of mixing the ingredients to finished product coming out of the oven,” said Sharon Book, Ph.D., senior food technologist, bakery, ICL Food Specialties. “Think about when you want the gas produced and what is the situation.”

Bakers should also consider what happens after the product is made. What is the packaging like, and how long will the baked food sit on a store shelf or in the consumer’s pantry? Both factors will impact the choice of leavening agents.

The rate of reaction, pH and neutralizing value of these ingredients will all come into play, and product developers need to balance the formula to get all the benefits of chemical leavening without any negative impacts on taste or color. With the assistance of knowledgeable ingredient suppliers, bakers can find the right leavening compound for their products.

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