What is Cream of Tartar?
Cream of tartar is a white, odorless, and acidic powder that is a byproduct of winemaking. It is also known as potassium bitartrate or potassium hydrogen tartrate. The powder is made from tartaric acid, which is found in grape juice and forms as a crystalline deposit on the inside of wine barrels during the fermentation process. The crystals are scraped off and then ground into a fine powder, which is cream of tartar.
History of Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has been used in cooking for centuries. It was initially used as a cleaning agent and for medicinal purposes before it was used in baking. In the 18th century, it became a popular ingredient in baking recipes because of its leavening properties. Today, it is a common ingredient in many recipes, and it is used in a variety of culinary and non-culinary applications.
Cream of Tartar as a Leavening Agent
Cream of tartar is an acidic ingredient that reacts with baking soda to produce carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps baked goods rise and become light and fluffy. This reaction is known as double-acting because it occurs twice during the baking process. The first reaction happens when cream of tartar is mixed with wet ingredients, and the second reaction occurs when the mixture is heated in the oven.
Uses of Cream of Tartar in Baking
Cream of tartar is used in a variety of baked goods, including cakes, cookies, and meringues. It is especially useful when making angel food cake and sponge cake, which require a lot of air to be beaten into the egg whites. Cream of tartar helps stabilize the egg whites and prevents them from collapsing, which results in a light and airy cake. It can also be used as a substitute for baking powder by combining it with baking soda.
Cream of Tartar as a Stabilizer
Cream of tartar is not only a leavening agent but also a stabilizer. It helps stabilize whipped cream and prevents it from deflating. Adding a pinch of cream of tartar to egg whites before whipping them also helps stabilize them and makes them easier to beat.
Other Culinary Uses of Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has other culinary uses besides baking. It can be used to preserve the color of boiled vegetables, such as green beans and asparagus. It can also be added to caramelized sugar to prevent it from crystallizing.
Non-Culinary Uses of Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has non-culinary uses as well. It can be used as a natural cleaning agent to clean stains and rust from metal surfaces. It can also be added to homemade playdough to make it more elastic and less sticky.
Health Benefits of Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar has several health benefits. It is a good source of potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. It is also believed to help detoxify the body and reduce joint pain. However, it is important to note that cream of tartar should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment.
How to Store and Use Cream of Tartar
Cream of tartar should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. It can be used in recipes as a dry ingredient or dissolved in water if needed. When using cream of tartar in recipes, be sure to measure it accurately, as too much or too little can affect the outcome of the recipe.
Conclusion: Versatility of Cream of Tartar
In conclusion, cream of tartar is a versatile ingredient that is used in a variety of culinary and non-culinary applications. Its leavening and stabilizing properties make it an essential ingredient in many baked goods, and its health benefits and non-culinary uses make it a valuable addition to any household. Whether you are a professional baker or a home cook, cream of tartar is an ingredient that you should always have on hand.