Cornstarch is a fine, powdery substance made from the starch of corn kernels. It is commonly used as a thickening agent in cooking and baking, absorbing liquid and creating a smooth texture in sauces, gravies, and desserts.
Baking powder is a leavening agent used in baking to help dough or batter rise. It combines baking soda, an alkaline ingredient, and one or more acidic compounds. When mixed with moisture and heat, baking powder produces carbon dioxide gas, causing the dough or batter to expand and create a light, airy texture in baked goods.
Are Cornstarch and Baking Powder Interchangeable?
Cornstarch and baking powder are not interchangeable, as they serve different purposes in cooking and baking. Here’s a breakdown of why they are not interchangeable.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch is primarily used as a thickening agent to add texture and consistency to sauces, soups, and desserts. It helps to absorb liquid and create a smooth, glossy finish.
Baking powder: Baking powder is a leavening agent that helps dough and batter rise by producing carbon dioxide gas. It creates a light, airy texture in baked goods.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch is made solely from the starch extracted from corn kernels.
Baking powder: Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), an alkaline ingredient, and one or more acidic compounds (such as cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate). These components react together when moisture is present, releasing carbon dioxide gas.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch does not react chemically when heated or combined with other ingredients. Its purpose is solely to thicken and stabilize liquids.
Baking powder: Baking powder undergoes a chemical reaction when exposed to moisture and heat. It releases carbon dioxide gas, causing the dough or batter to rise and create a fluffy texture.
Cornstarch: Cornstarch can sometimes be substituted with other thickeners like arrowroot powder or tapioca starch, but it cannot be used as a direct replacement for baking powder.
Baking powder: Baking powder cannot be substituted with cornstarch because it is responsible for the leavening action in recipes. However, if you are in a bind and need a substitute for baking powder, you can mix baking soda with an acidic ingredient like cream of tartar or lemon juice to create a similar leavening effect.
Cornstarch and baking powder have distinct functions and compositions, making them non-interchangeable in recipes. Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent while baking powder is a leavening agent for baked goods.
How to Cook with Cornstarch?
Mix with cold liquid: To prevent clumping, whisk cornstarch with a small amount of cold liquid before adding it to hot liquids like soups or sauces.
Thickening agent: Gradually add the cornstarch mixture to the hot liquid while stirring continuously. Cook for a few minutes until the desired thickness is achieved.
Use in batters: Cornstarch can be added to batter recipes like tempura or fried chicken to create a crispier texture. Coat the ingredients in a thin layer of cornstarch before frying.
How to Cook with Baking Powder?
Leavening agent: Baking powder is typically used in baking recipes to make dough or batter rise. It is usually combined with dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and salt.
Measuring correctly: Follow the recipe instructions for the amount of baking powder needed. Too little can result in dense baked goods, while too much can lead to an unpleasant taste.
Activation: Baking powder requires moisture and heat to activate the leavening process. Once mixed with wet ingredients, it should be placed in the oven promptly to ensure proper rising during baking. Avoid overmixing the batter to prevent deflating the air bubbles created by the baking powder.
How to make Baking Powder from Cornstarch?
- 2 parts cream of tartar
- 1 part cornstarch
- 1 part baking soda
- In a bowl, combine 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part cornstarch. For example, if you use 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
- Add 1 part baking soda to the mixture. This means using the same amount as the cream of tartar. For example, if you used 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
- Thoroughly mix the ingredients until they are evenly combined. Use a whisk or fork to ensure there are no clumps.
- Your homemade baking powder substitute is ready to be used in recipes that call for baking powder. Measure and use the same amount as the required baking powder in the recipe.
Cornstarch vs. Baking Powder: Applications
- Thickening agent: Cornstarch is commonly used to thicken sauces, gravies, and soups, as it absorbs liquid and creates a smooth, glossy texture.
- Baked goods: It can be used in baking to provide a lighter texture to cakes, cookies, and muffins.
- Puddings and custards: Cornstarch helps create a smooth and creamy consistency in desserts like puddings and custards.
- Fried foods: Coating ingredients with a thin layer of cornstarch before frying adds crispiness and helps seal moisture.
- Chinese stir-fries: Cornstarch is often used in marinades to tenderize meat and in stir-fry sauces to thicken and enhance the dish’s texture.
- Non-toxic playdough: Cornstarch can be used as an ingredient in homemade playdough recipes as a safe and edible alternative to store-bought playdough.
- Baked goods rising: Baking powder is essential for leavening and making baked goods rise, such as cakes, muffins, and bread.
- Pancakes and waffles: It helps create fluffy and light pancakes and waffles by causing the batter to rise and develop air pockets.
- Quick breads: Baking powder is used in recipes for quick breads like banana bread and zucchini bread, providing the desired rise without the need for yeast.
- Biscuits and scones: It helps create a tender and airy texture in biscuits and scones, resulting in light and flaky pastries.
- Batter coatings: Baking powder is often added to batters for fried foods like fritters or tempura, contributing to a crispy and airy coating.
- Eggless baking: Baking powder can be used as a leavening agent in vegan or eggless baking recipes, helping to create a rise in the absence of eggs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does cornstarch or baking powder make things crispy?
Cornstarch is better for achieving crispiness in dishes like fried chicken or coating for fried foods, as it creates a crunchy exterior when used as a coating or breading.
Which is better for baking a cake: cornstarch or baking powder?
Baking powder is better for baking a cake, as it is a leavening agent that helps the cake rise and creates a light and fluffy texture.
Which is better for rising doughs: cornstarch or baking powder?
Baking powder is better for rising doughs, as it releases carbon dioxide gas when exposed to heat and moisture, causing the dough to rise and expand.
Which is better for chicken wings: cornstarch or baking powder?
Cornstarch is better for chicken wings to achieve a crispy texture. It can be used as a coating before frying, providing a crispier exterior than baking powder, primarily used as a leavening agent and does not contribute to crispiness.