soda, a commonly used leaven and key ingredient in baking
powder, helps batters and doughs rise, so their texture
is light when baked. We're surprised to hear that it
is not easy to find in Austria.
could be that the old leaven "hartshorn" (ammonium bicarbonate)
is still around. It was the precursor to baking soda,
though slightly more alkaline. It's generally used in
cookie recipes where the residual smell of ammonia can
readily escape, rather than in muffins where its ammonia
smell is likely to linger in the larger amount of batter.
If baking soda is the only leaven called for in the muffin
recipe, you'll need to find a substitute. Since we suspect
baking powder is readily available, we suggest using 1
teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder for each 1/4 teaspoon (1
ml) of baking soda suggested. This is generally sufficient
to leaven 1 cup (250 ml) of flour.
The flavor of the muffin may be slightly different with
this change, because baking soda is usually paired with
an acidic ingredient. The two react when exposed to moisture,
creating carbon dioxide (the leavening gas) and a neutral
salt. Leaving the acidic ingredient in (often a liquid
such as buttermilk, orange juice, yogurt, etc.) and removing
the baking soda means the muffin will be slightly more
acidic. But that may be perfectly acceptable.
If the muffin recipe calls for baking soda along with
baking powder, leave out the baking soda and check to
see if the amount of the baking powder called for is sufficient
to leaven the dry ingredients according to the above proportions
(often recipes call for more baking powder than is really
needed). If not, add sufficient baking powder so there
is 1 teaspoon (5 ml) to raise each 1 cup (250 ml) of dry
ingredients (such as flour, wheat germ, oatmeal, bran)
in the recipe.
We hope you'll have the joy of visiting your daughter
in Austria. Then you could tuck a box of baking soda in
your luggage. If you are both curious cooks, it might
be fun to compare the results of baking soda vs. hartshorn
if it's available. Perhaps you could let us know the results
and we could post them on the Discussion Forum for others
who might have the same problem as your daughter.