Behold the Lamb Passover Web Supplement

Comments about Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Passover baking powder and Passover Baking Soda? My grandmothers would have had kittens! It seems to fly in the face of what Passover symbolizes. Technically, however, it is leavened goods that are the result of fermentation (as with yeast baking) that are forbidden on Passover. If you are not sure, ask a rabbi – there are many written debates on whether or not “Passover baking powder and baking soda” should be permitted. Baking soda, and baking powder are chemical leaveners so they are not in the regular category of “leaven” goods, if one is going to abide by technicalities. Also, Passover baking powder is made without cornstarch, a carrier in baking powder products, so there is no dispute there. HOWEVER…… my personal feeling is that I can appreciate whipped egg whites to aerate my Passover cakes but somehow once baking soda and baking powder, even okay-for-Passover ones, are introduced, the spirit of the holiday is compromised (never mind that all the big kosher packaged goods companies include these leaveners in their cookies and cakes – just check the ingredient list). Passover cakes that use these products, even though they have no regular flour, approach regular baking, at least in style. Incidentally, if you have always wondered why these packaged items “taste almost normal” it is because they are using these leaveners.

Source: A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

Additional Comments about Baking Powder and Baking Soda

Hametz (pronounced with a guttural “h”) is leaven or fermented dough, and it is what Jews are commanded not to eat (or even own) during Passover. This divine commandment is clearly stated in Chapters 12 and 13 of the Book of Exodus. The great rabbis determined that hametz is created when cold water and flour ground from the grains wheat, oats, rye, barley, or spelt (related to wheat) have been combined into a raw dough for longer than 18 minutes. Fermentation or “leavening” is said to take place after that time….

Another source of confusion arises from baking soda and baking powder. While these chemicals may cause baked good to “rise,” they are obviously not hametz. Baking soda is a pure chemical (sodium bicarbonate), and is permitted on Passover just like sugar or salt. Baking powder differs from baking soda in that it contains two chemicals, and may be restricted on Passover only because it often also contains cornstarch. In fact, Pesach baking powder is usually available in kosher food stores at this time of year. Many commercial bakeries use both products in their kosher-for-Passover packaged baked goods. Even though baking soda and powder are permitted, many cooks avoid these chemical raising agents in order to make the holiday of Pesach feel different from the rest of the year, and prefer to rely on beaten egg whites to lighten desserts and other dishes.