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Leavening Agents - Different Ways to Leaven

Updated on September 15, 2015

A beautiful loaf of bread!


What would the world be like without breads? We wouldn't have bread at all, as we know it, if not for leavening agents. What kinds of different leaveners are out there? How does it work? Can we picture a world without leavening?

There are 3 different kinds of leavenings out there, in a broad sense, and there are a few in each category at least. We see wither biological, mechanical or chemical causes of leavening. You want to select the right leavening agent depending on the batter or dough you will be using. The leavenings produce air, ammonia, carbon dioxide, stream or other gases depending on which is being used. For optimum results, get a good understanding of leavening ingredients, and each of their relationship to other ingredients. By doing so, you will have greater success in your baking endeavors. Leaveners are what make breads rise, and give good textures to your dishes. Its not just used in breads either, as we see leavening activities occurring in creams and egg dishes as well, etc.

One of my favorite recipes to make is the popover. When I was young, if I was out shopping with my mom and sister, we would go to Bullock's Department store, to their little cafe there. We would stop in to get just a small snack and something to drink usually. Our favorite thing to order there was a popover, warm out of their oven, with butter and jelly. It was so fun, and so funny looking, and tasted heavenly. Well, this inspired me to want to cook my own popovers when I got older, and I found a recipe to make popovers. They were a little smaller, but so good all the same, and very easy to make! Bullock's Department store doesn't exist anymore, and I truly miss it. It brings back fond memories to me, and especially that little coffee shop restaurant.

Biological leavening

There is relatively slow leavening action in a biologically leavened product. For that reason, there is a considerable gluten development and structure involved. Both yeast and bacteria are examples of this kind of leavening. Salt rising bread is an example here.

Chemical leavening

In this process, the chemical leavened items are intermediate in their structure. What is needed, is enough structure to sustain the product being leavened so that it doesn't collapse, etc. This is the category where baking soda and baking powder are in. There are many however. Quick breads, cakes and cookies are examples of chemical leavening in action.

Mechanically leavening

As steam grows, products that have been mechanically leavened really develop their structure. Water, and the air are needed here. Using some kind of device and/or action that gets the water and the "atmosphere" into the other ingredients, and as they cook, they secure the air pockets. This is what gives the leavened effect. We see this happen in sponge cakes and cookies.

Steam and Air

This leavening agent works as the steam and air expand upon heating. My favorite popovers used this process to do their magic. Yorkshire pudding is another example.

Whatever the process, I love the fact that leavening exists, because we get so many wonderful results from it that that we enjoy in life.

© 2010 Paula


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Phoenix!

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      excellent information thanks