Baking with ammonia
- January 9, 2009 5:06 PM |
- By Amber Hildebrandt
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca
As soon as I arrived in frigid Manitoba for the holidays, my grandmother handed me two volumes of a cookbook and history of Mennonite cuisine.
But the day before I left, she gave a tiny bag full of something much more valuable to the actual consumption of the cuisine — baking ammonia.
Though unknown to most of my Toronto friends, you can find the leavening agent in grocery stores and even bulk food stores in southeast Manitoba. The white powder comes in hard chunks that have to be broken up before cooking and isn’t harmful when cooked, though you might want to plug your nose when opening the bag.
It is a predecessor to our modern baking powder and baking soda.
I haven’t found a purveyor in Canada’s largest city yet so I was excited to get enough to make a few batches of cookies.
While I successfully substituted a mixture of baking powder and baking soda (1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda for each teaspoon of ammonia) in one recipe, there’s a peppermint cookie recipe from my paternal grandmother that I wouldn’t dream of making without it.
It seems to make them airier than the substitute.
In fact, Wayne Gisslen notes in his book Professional Baking that baking ammonia should only really be used for such small products as cookies that are baked until dry.
He also writes that the powder is sometimes used in products where quick leavening is required, such as cream puffs.
So, while baking ammonia has been usurped by a perhaps more efficient and less smelly successor, it seems it still has its uses in recipes, at least the ones in my grandmother’s splattered and dog-eared cookbooks.
Do you have any strange ingredients in your kitchen cabinets, perhaps something unique to your family recipes?
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