Can You Use Baking Powder and Yeast Together?

While it is possible to use both yeast and baking powder together, it is not common. Recipes for baked goods usually call for one or the other and they are rarely used together. Either one can be used to puff up baked goods but they do behave very differently and produce different results. Because of this, there is usually no need to combine them.

Yeast and baking powder are both leavening agents, which mean that they are used in baked goods to help batters or dough rise. Yeast, a biological leavening agent, and baking powder, a chemical leavening agent, generate carbon dioxide to puff up baked goods.

Recipes usually only ask for either yeast or baking powder and the choice is usually dependent on the type of baked item being made. Generally speaking, yeast is usually used in dough-based recipes like bread and pizza dough. Baking powder is typically used in thin-batter type recipes like cakes, pancakes, and biscuits.

Can You Use Baking Powder Instead of Yeast?

While it is possible to use baking powder instead of yeast, you might not get the results you were expecting. Baking powder and yeast perform and behave differently to one another. Because of this, the results you get from yeast and baking powder are unlikely to be the same, which means that they are not direct replacements of each other.

The main factors that dictate whether you would use yeast or baking powder largely boil down to flavor, texture, and the amount of rise needed. Yeasts produce carbon dioxide (CO2) through a long fermentation process. This means that yeasts can typically give very airy rises and rise through tougher doughs like bread dough.

Baking powder would not usually give enough lift to work through the gluten network of bread dough since it is fast acting. Because of this, baking powder performs better in lighter batters like cakes, that go straight into the oven once the batter is made.

Unlike baking powder, yeast delivers complex flavors that make bread very tasty. On the flip side, the complex flavors from the yeast would give too strong of a yeasty flavor to cake, which is why again, baking powder is best used in this application.

The fast-acting nature of baking powder also means that the batter rises quickly, which stops the gluten network from forming. This means that you can enjoy soft, light, and fluffy cakes without the chewy consistency that you would usually expect from yeast raised bread.

There are of course, breads that are made with just baking powder and sweet bakes that are made with yeast, like cinnamon rolls. But for the reasons described above, there is little reason to swap one for the other or use them together.

Can You Use Yeast and Baking Powder Together?

Generally speaking, there is little to gain by using yeast and baking powder together. Apart from a few select recipes, it is uncommon to see them used together because of how differently they behave and perform.

Most critically, yeast and baking powder work over different time frames. When given too little time, the yeast won’t have enough time to work. When given too much time, the fast-acting baking powder will be spent and have little impact on leavening, if at all.

That being said, there are occasions where yeast and baking powder are used together in smaller-scale bakes. Yeasted or Angel biscuits and English crumpets are some of the few bakes that use both yeast and baking powder together. By combining the two leavening agents the resulting bakes taste ‘bready’ with a moderate rise.

Misconceptions of Combining Yeast and Baking Powder Together

There also appears to be a misconception that by adding more leaveners, like extra baking powder or a combination of yeast and baking powder, the end product will become fluffier. This is unfortunately not the case. Aside from the amount of gas generated by the leaveners, the fluffiness of a bake is also subject to the ability of a dough to trap in the gas that is produced.

A recipe is usually written to include the ideal type and amount of leavener to use. Mixing yeast and baking powder together or adding extra baking powder to encourage more gas production, without taking into account the nature of the dough, is likely to be counterproductive.

A strong gluten network is needed to trap any gas produced from yeast or baking powder. This is developed from kneading and further developed through a gentle yeasted rise. If the dough itself does not have the strength and structure to trap in the gas then the gas bubbles will simply collapse and result in a deflated bake.

Combining Yeast and Baking Powder to Make Bread

In the example of bread, there is little benefit of adding baking powder to bread when yeast is already used since yeast is far more effective at getting the tougher bread dough to rise. The addition of baking powder, unfortunately, won’t help speed up the process either. While you might get a small rise initially because of the baking powder, this reaction will run out very quickly, well before the yeast has had time to work.

Yeast needs time (often hours) to produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate the gluten matrix and give bread its rise and structure. In the timeframe over which the dough ferments, any baking powder that is added is unlikely to have any impact on the lift of the loaf. Adding too much baking powder could also leave an unpleasant or “chemical” taste to the dough.

Combining Yeast and Baking Powder to Make Cake

On the flip side, adding yeast to a recipe that traditionally uses baking powder will make the recipe take substantially longer. Baking powder is generally a fast-acting leavener that produces a decent lift to lighter doughs and batters. If the results from using baking powder alone are satisfactory then there is little benefit to adding yeast to the recipe.

Not only does adding yeast introduce its own complexities in terms of its preparation, but the recipe will also need much longer to work before any material results are seen. Not to mention yeast imparts a bready flavor, which might not be desirable depending on the baked item.

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