baking powder and alkaline water

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Joined May 30, 2016
Well, I'm not getting answers from various baking forums, so I'll try here.

I've never been that impressed with the leavening power of baking powder, and it occurs to me that it may not be working that well for me because my water is HIGHLY alkaline. I mean pH~9.2. Now, the water tastes fine. They raise the pH to precipitate out a lot of the minerals that would make it taste bad. But is highly alkaline liquid likely to impede the performance of baking powder and, for that matter, baking soda? I'm talking drop biscuits or cakes. Now, acidification of the water is not hard to do. Cream of tartar, or even vinegar or citric acid. Is that likely to make a difference here? I'm looking for advice from people who actually have highly alkaline water.
 

phatch

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Baking powder contains it's own reagents. One liquid activated, the other heat activated--at least for double acting baking powder. But yes, they could pre-react with alkaline or acidic water, beyond just the regular liquid reaction.
 
52
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Joined May 30, 2016
Baking powder contains it's own reagents. One liquid activated, the other heat activated--at least for double acting baking powder. But yes, they could pre-react with alkaline or acidic water, beyond just the regular liquid reaction.
Well, actually, baking powder contains some acidifier, like calcium phosphate. The way you get bubbles out of calcium carbonate (baking soda), which most of baking powder is, is if it's in acid. Baking powder makes it's own acid. My point is that if the liquid that dissolves the stuff is highly alkaline, it might not end up being very acidic. Hence, no bubbles. My question is whether my water will actually prevent the necessary acidity. You'd think this would be well understood.
 
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Use bottled water and see if there is any difference in results. Easiest way to know for sure if your water is reactive or not.
 
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Joined May 30, 2016
Well, I did a little experiment, where I dropped a teaspoon of Clabber Girl baking powder into half a cup of distilled water, and also into half a cup of my alkaline water. I was expecting some fizz at least in the former. Zero, nada. They look the same, No fizz in either. This baking powder is only a year old, so it should be active. What gives? Shouldn't I expect some fizz if I dissolve baking powder in water?
 
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Was the water warm or cold? Also I would try experiment again with both waters (warm) using a quarter of the amount of water to more effectively see if there is any fizz being produced. Too much displacement and you might not see it occur. If you still see no reaction, try another time except add a few drops of dish detergent to both waters then pour over baking powder. No fizz...powder dead.
 
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Joined May 30, 2016
Strangely, my added paragraph to my last post didn't go online.

In fact, I believe you're exactly right. My powder is dead. Lifetime is supposed to be only 9-12 months. This stuff might well be more than a year old. So I need to get new baking powder and do the experiment again. I'll get back to you.

In fact, a test for whether baking powder is alive is precisely to mix it with warm water and see if it fizzes.
 
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Joined May 30, 2016
And the answer is ...

When I add 1 tsp of fresh double-acting baking power to 1 cup of my tap water, which now specs out at pH 9.6 (!) it DOES fizz. So I guess my problems with baking power were mainly just defunct baking powder. But it is interesting that even highly alkaline water won't prevent baking powder from working. That's good to know.

Now, how in the world does it manage to do that? Well, I tested it out with some pH paper. Indeed, after adding the powder to the tap water, the pH of the liquid ends up pretty close to 7 - neutral. So that amount of baking powder, which includes an acidifier, entirely neutralizes the alkalinity in the water! I think the reason is that the tap water isn't buffered, so changing the pH is pretty easy.

I should add that it would appear to me that what craps out in baking powder is NOT the baking soda part that fizzes, but rather the additive that acidifies the liquid. That is, if you dump old baking powder in acid, it fizzes like crazy.
 
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