What Is the Purpose of Putting Baking Powder & Baking Soda in My Chocolate Chip Cookies?

Homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven are a sweet treat, especially if the chocolate chips are soft and slightly melted. If you have a craving for homemade chocolate chip cookies and are raiding your pantry for the ingredients, you may wonder over the purpose of putting baking soda or baking powder into your dough. These ingredients provide lift and fluffiness to the cookies but work in slightly different ways and will influence the texture of your cookies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Freshly made chocolate chip cookies. (Image: militarywivessaving/iStock/Getty Images)

Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline powder. When the alkaline powder combines with an acid, a chemical reaction occurs and they create carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles work to "lift" your cookie dough during baking. Proper cookie dough recipes call for the correct proportion of baking soda to acid. If you have too much baking soda for the acid in the dough, your final cookie may taste bitter. Traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes typically call for 1 tsp. of baking soda, and these cookies tend to be thin and crisp.

Baking Powder

Baking powder differs from baking soda because it contains both the alkaline and the acid components required for leavening. While many alkaline and acid powder combinations begin to generate a carbon dioxide reaction when they get wet, modern baking powder is designed to partially delay this reaction until it is exposed to the heat in your oven. Cookies made with baking powder tend to be fluffier and softer than cookies made with baking soda.

Browning

While the use of baking powder results in a fluffier cookie, it may not brown as well as cookies made with baking soda. Remember that baking powder contains the correct ratio of alkalinity and acidity for an ideal chemical reaction. Baked goods that have more alkalinity than acidity due to the inclusion of baking soda tend to brown better than baked goods that are neutral or acidic, according to Brian Geiger or "Fine Cooking Magazine."

Tips

While you can manipulate the texture of your chocolate chip cookies by choosing between baking soda and baking powder, you can also influence the texture of the final product through your choice of flour. Cake flour will result in a lighter, more tender cookie. Use bread flour to create a chewier cookie.

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