Chemical leavening

9 March 2022
Chemical leavening | Bakery Academy

The use of chemical leavening is of all day and ages and sometimes shaped by traditions. Due to convenience sometimes certain leavening agents are replaced and, after a while sometimes, accepted by consumers. In all cases leavening is done by a salt based carrier of carbonate or carbon dioxide sometimes in combination with an acid to facilitate optimal production of CO2-gas during baking. The dominant sources for these salts are:

–              Sodium based

–              Ammonium based

–              Potassium based

To the use of every type there are both benefits as well as disadvantages and require therefore considerable thought or it will/ can result in an endless effort in trial-and-error.

The most popular types are:

–              Sodiumbicarbonate (SBC)

–              Ammoniumbicarbonate (ABC)

–              Potassiumcarbonate (Potas(h))


During baking the dough pieces increase in temperature, these salts release CO2 and form bubbles in the dough piece which starts increasing in volume. The result is the leavening of the dough pieces in the oven.

From the start to the end of the baking, water vapor is also continuously generated and forms part of the leavening process. The reaction takes place when sufficient water is available and accelerates in the presence of an acidulant and heat.  Generally all acids will facilitate the production of CO2, but not all in the required timing. The speed for CO2 formation in the oven is a balance between formulation and baking conditions:

  • initially the gas will dissolve in the dough system
  • afterwards the gas is released into physically formed air bubbles
  • these are expanded during baking to form the holes retained in the finished product
  • depending on the gas holding ability and recipe, the dough/ batter will flow(spread), aerate and volume will be developed.

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