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RiceGuy

Calling All Cooks - Poison In The Pantry

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Hi everyone.

Each time I've tried using baking soda in a recipe, it has apparently reacted with the flour, producing a truly awful taste and foul odor. It has happened with every flour and blend I've tried. It can even effect the color. I tried it in pancake batter, and I had to throw them away :( It even gave the pancakes a slightly greenish tint!

I believe I've narrowed it down to the baking soda, by putting some in a cup with some flour, and adding some water. Within about a minute, the odor begins to form, and gradually gets worse over time. This does not happen with Rumford's baking powder. It also did not happen with Bob's Red Mill baking powder, until a few months ago. Now, Bob's is doing it too, which is bad news because (as some of you already know) it has the SAPP formula, which works sooo much better than the common types, such as Rumford.

It doesn't seem likely that this reaction has always been the case with baking soda, thus I suspect that the baking soda, which also ends up in baking powder, is in some way different than it used to be. It may only be a matter of time before Rumford's has the same problem (it may already, but I haven't purchased any in a while). Maybe there's a new source of the stuff on the market or something.

I only use whole flours, so I don't know if it happens with starches like tapioca or cornstarch. It seems to be worse with high-protein flours, which suggests to me that the reaction may involve protein. I just tested with some sweet white rice flour, and although the odor did develop, it was very subtle by comparison, and might not be noticed in a recipe. The test with sorghum flour however, was dramatic enough for anyone to notice, I'd say. After about 5-6 minutes, the odor is really nasty.

Anyway, for any of you who use baking soda in cooking and baking, please try this simple test: Place about a tablespoon of flour (higher protein for best results) in a cup, and add 1/2 tsp of baking soda, along with just enough water to yield a pancake batter consistency. Make immediate note of the smell. Then wait 5 minutes or more, and give it another whiff. Notice anything different?

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If you keep baking soda in the fridge, it will take on the odors of the other foods. Also if it's expired, it won't work as well.

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Cool test. I also tried plain baking soda and plain baking powder in water to see if they smelled different.

Test results:

I did use Rumford baking powder and Pamela's Baking and Pancake flour.

It started to bubble up very quickly without any smell but wet flour. No difference 5 minutes later.

I used Arm and Hammer baking soda and Pamela's flour.

No bubbles but it did have a rather odd smell. Can't even explain it. In 5 minutes it still smelled.

In water without the flour there was no real smell to either.

I would like to try this with a plain four instead of Pamela's mix. I just don't keep anything but Pamela's on hand. Wonder if this happens to wheat flour also.

Both my baking powder and baking soda are within expiration dates. Baking powder is kept sealed in a freezer ziploc bag but not in refrig.

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Thanks for the replies. I keep my baking powder sealed, at room temp. The baking soda is a brand new package. It's definitely not anything the baking soda is drawing up out of the environment. Rather, it is a chemical reaction. Using other (although unconventional) ingredients to produce the CO2 works, only it doesn't wait for the heat of a stove or oven. This doesn't mess up the taste or smell, but it's not very effective at leavening.

The only variable which might not yet be accounted for is the water. Perhaps there's something in it. However, it would mean that there are no less than three compounds at work here, since it already takes baking soda and the flour. Either one with water alone doesn't produce any off-odors.

I just thought of an idea to try: I will mash some green peas, and add baking soda to it. That should prove something, since peas have plenty of protein.

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The only variable which might not yet be accounted for is the water. Perhaps there's something in it. However, it would mean that there are no less than three compounds at work here, since it already takes baking soda and the flour. Either one with water alone doesn't produce any off-odors.

Any chance the water has changed? Sometimes we get more chlorine than usual in the water, or maybe they started adding fluoride? Or maybe you're getting rust in the pipes (if you have metal pipes)? A chlorine excess (that the water company warned about) in college has taught me our tap water is anything but consistent.

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Yes tap water is highly inconsistent but if she has tried the other two ingredients with the water by itself, it acts as a control and makes it not the reacting factor.

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There shouldn't be anything different about the water. It's well water, not from any public water supply. But, I suppose it's remotely possible for something to have gotten into the ground water nearby. Though I'd expect to notice a difference in the taste or smell, especially since I only drink plain water.

Maybe I'll try some bottled water, just to remove any shadow of a doubt.

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There shouldn't be anything different about the water. It's well water, not from any public water supply. But, I suppose it's remotely possible for something to have gotten into the ground water nearby. Though I'd expect to notice a difference in the taste or smell, especially since I only drink plain water.

Maybe I'll try some bottled water, just to remove any shadow of a doubt.

Ummm, how many different containers of baking soda have you tried? Is this happening with more than one package, more than one brand? If it's the same package you've been using for all this, then maybe that package is bad? Do you live in some strangely high humidity area that makes baking soda go bad? I've never had this happen, I bought Bob's soda and powder quite recently, and have used both without issue or change from previous performance of said products. How strange.... How'd the thing with the peas go?

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Ummm, how many different containers of baking soda have you tried? Is this happening with more than one package, more than one brand? If it's the same package you've been using for all this, then maybe that package is bad? Do you live in some strangely high humidity area that makes baking soda go bad? I've never had this happen, I bought Bob's soda and powder quite recently, and have used both without issue or change from previous performance of said products. How strange.... How'd the thing with the peas go?

I've tried two different brands of baking soda. The first was well over a year ago. The second one is brand new, as of a day or two before I posted this topic. At first I thought it was only occurring with bean flours, but it seems to happen with any flour with a decent protein content. I suspect it may go unnoticed if the flours being used are mostly starch. I haven't tried the idea with the peas yet. Will do that soon, and post the results. I can tell you that it does do it with pea flour though.

It also does it with whole buckwheat. I once was making something with buckwheat, and for some reason (I don't recall why) I decided to add a bit of baking soda. It caused the color to get very much more brown, and made it taste weird.

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OK, I've done a few more tests.

It occurred to me that perhaps the bad reaction wouldn't take place if the pH didn't go so far from neutral. In other words, if an acid was already added, so the baking soda would react with that instead of the flour. This does appear to reduce the negative effects quite a lot. However, it doesn't solve the problem, because adding the acid makes all the fizz occur before the dough or batter is heated, resulting in no rise by the time the heat is applied.

If there was a way to somehow protect the proteins in the flour from the baking soda, that might work. But that's easier said than done.

Adding baking soda to mashed peas didn't produce the foul odor. I don't know why.

I just now thought of something to try. I'll report back with the results...

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OK, I've done a few more tests.

It occurred to me that perhaps the bad reaction wouldn't take place if the pH didn't go so far from neutral. In other words, if an acid was already added, so the baking soda would react with that instead of the flour. This does appear to reduce the negative effects quite a lot. However, it doesn't solve the problem, because adding the acid makes all the fizz occur before the dough or batter is heated, resulting in no rise by the time the heat is applied.

If there was a way to somehow protect the proteins in the flour from the baking soda, that might work. But that's easier said than done.

Adding baking soda to mashed peas didn't produce the foul odor. I don't know why.

I just now thought of something to try. I'll report back with the results...

Dude, this is strange. I've never seen baking soda do that. I've been thinking about it a lot and I got nothing.

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RiceGuy,

You should be able to have your well water tested by your county services. Wells can get contaminated with bacteria. Well water of areas is known to have higher concentrations of heavy metals, iron, or arsenic.

In the case of bacteria in your well system, it is possible for the bacteria to eat right through any filter you have in your well system.

Some people in this area shock their wells every year or so.

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Hey RiceGuy,

I used good ole Wisconsin city water that I put into my Pur Filter (yes, the filter was NEW two weeks ago). I doubt we used the same water. I sure do wish some more people would try this and tell us their results.

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Well, I tried with bottled spring water, just in case. It still did it, so that apparently rules out the water. I also tried with another brand of baking soda - still does it.

Anyone else try this yet?

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I just purchased new baking powder and baking soda for my Holiday baking. I'm trying this experiment again. I'll use filtered tap water, unfiltered tap water and bottled water. Still only have Pamela's flour.

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