Cream of tartar is an incredibly versatile ingredient that has earned its place in both culinary and household settings. With a rich history and a wide range of applications, cream of tartar brings unique properties to recipes and everyday tasks.
Derived as a byproduct of wine production, this fine, white powder is significant in the culinary world, acting as a leavening agent, stabilizer, and anti-crystallizing agent in various baked goods and confections. Beyond the kitchen, cream of tartar’s acidic properties makes it a valuable cleaning agent, while its potential health benefits add to its allure.
What Is Cream Of Tartar?
Cream of tartar, scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, is a fine white powder with a crystalline texture. Its chemical composition consists of potassium hydrogen tartrate, which occurs naturally in grapes.
During winemaking, tartaric acid precipitates and forms a crust-like substance inside wine barrels. This crust, known as argol or wine lees, is collected, purified, and ground into a fine powder, resulting in cream of tartar.
Different Uses Of Cream Of Tartar
Cream of tartar has many uses, making it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen and household. From baking to cleaning and even home remedies, its applications are diverse. Let’s explore some of the key uses of cream of tartar and how it enhances various culinary creations and everyday tasks.
Cream of tartar is widely used in baking as a leavening agent. When combined with baking soda, it creates carbon dioxide gas, expanding and rising baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and meringues.
Stabilizing Whipped Cream and Egg Whites
Cream of tartar helps stabilize whipped cream and egg whites, providing structure and preventing deflating. It helps achieve fluffy peaks and enhances the stability of these mixtures in desserts like mousses, soufflés, and pavlovas.
Anti-Crystallizing Agent in Candies
Cream of tartar acts as an anti-crystallizing agent in candy-making by inhibiting sugar crystals from forming. It helps create smoother textures in candies like caramels, fudges, and fondants.
It is a natural and effective cleaning agent, particularly for removing stains and rust from various surfaces. It can be used as a mild abrasive to clean cookware, remove tarnish from metal, and eliminate fabric stains.
Cream of tartar is sometimes used in home remedies for certain ailments. It is believed to have diuretic properties and is used in natural remedies for relieving urinary tract infections and as a potential remedy for arthritis symptoms.
How Cream Of Tartar Works In Baking?
Cream of tartar plays a crucial role in baking through its chemical properties. When combined with baking soda, cream of tartar acts as an acid to create a chemical reaction that produces carbon dioxide gas. This gas forms bubbles in the dough or batter, causing it to rise and expand during baking. The trapped carbon dioxide gas gives baked goods their light and airy texture.
Additionally, cream of tartar helps stabilize whipped egg whites, enhancing their volume and structure. Its ability to activate leavening agents and provide stability makes cream of tartar a valuable ingredient in achieving desirable textures and heights in various baked goods.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Using Cream Of Tartar?
When used in moderation and as a culinary ingredient, cream of tartar is generally considered safe for consumption.
Consuming excessive amounts may lead to digestive discomforts, such as stomach upset or diarrhea, due to its acidic nature. Additionally, individuals with kidney issues or a history of kidney stones should exercise caution, as cream of tartar is high in potassium. As with any dietary or medicinal substance, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using the cream of tartar for therapeutic purposes or if you have any specific concerns.
How To Store Cream Of Tartar?
- Keep it in an airtight container or original packaging to prevent moisture absorption and maintain freshness.
- Store it in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources, as exposure to moisture and heat can degrade its quality.
- Label the container with the date of purchase to ensure you can track its shelf life.
- Freezing cream of tartar is not necessary, as it has a long shelf life at room temperature, and freezing may alter its texture and quality. It is best to store it in a dry pantry or cupboard.
Dishes In Which Cream Of Tartar Is Used
Cream of tartar plays a crucial role in achieving the desired texture, stability, and flavor in various baked goods and confections. Let’s have a look at these dishes.
Cream of tartar is often used in cake recipes, such as angel food cake, to stabilize whipped egg whites and create a light and fluffy texture.
Cream of tartar is a key ingredient in cookie recipes, like snickerdoodles, as it helps achieve a soft and chewy texture while providing a slightly tangy flavor.
Making Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Cream of tartar can be used in chocolate chip cookie recipes to create a chewy texture with slightly crisp edges, ensuring a delightful balance of textures in each bite.
Cream of tartar is essential in homemade marshmallow recipes, where it stabilizes the mixture and gives the marshmallows a fluffy and light texture.
Cream of tartar is commonly used when making meringue toppings for pies and desserts, helping create a stable and voluminous meringue with a glossy appearance.
What To Substitute For Cream Of Tartar If It Is Not Available?
If cream of tartar is unavailable, you can use alternatives like lemon juice, vinegar, or baking powder. Adjust the quantities accordingly, keeping in mind that these substitutes may slightly alter the taste and texture of the final result. Remember, the effectiveness of substitutes may vary depending on the specific recipe and desired outcome. It’s always a good idea to experiment and adjust the proportions to achieve the best results.
8 Substitutes For Cream Of Tartar
Baking powder is a convenient substitute as it contains cream of tartar and baking soda. To substitute cream of tartar, use three times the amount of baking powder called for in the recipe. However, note that baking powder contains additional ingredients like cornstarch so adjust the recipe accordingly.
Lemon juice is an acidic ingredient that can replace the cream of tartar in some recipes. Use an equal amount of lemon juice as a substitute. Remember that lemon juice may add a slight citrus flavor to the dish, which can be desirable in some recipes.
Vinegar, especially white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, can be used as a substitute for cream of tartar. Use an equal amount of vinegar as a substitute. Like lemon juice, vinegar adds acidity to the recipe, so be aware of any potential flavor changes.
Buttermilk is acidic and can work as a substitute for cream of tartar. Replace the cream of tartar with an equal amount of buttermilk in recipes that require a leavening agent. This substitute works well in baked goods, particularly tangy ones.
Plain yogurt, like buttermilk, contains acidity and can replace the cream of tartar. Use an equal amount of plain yogurt to substitute for cream of tartar. Consider reducing the liquid in the recipe slightly when using yogurt as a substitute.
Sour cream is another acidic ingredient that can substitute for the cream of tartar. Replace the cream of tartar with an equal amount of sour cream in recipes. Keep in mind that sour cream may alter the texture and flavor slightly.
Ammonium carbonate, also known as baker’s ammonia or hartshorn, is an old-fashioned leavening agent that can replace cream of tartar. Use an equal amount of ammonium carbonate as a substitute. However, be cautious; ammonium carbonate has a strong smell and should be used sparingly.
Club soda can be used as a substitute for cream of tartar in certain recipes. Club soda is carbonated water that contains carbonic acid, which can provide a mild acidic effect. To replace cream of tartar, use an equal amount of club soda. Keep in mind that club soda may add some moisture to the recipe, so adjust the liquid content if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Origin Of The Word Cream Of Tartar?
The term “Cream of Tartar” can be traced back to its connection with tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring acid found in grapes, and it crystallizes during the winemaking process. These crystals, known as tartar, are collected, purified, and ground into a fine powder.
Why Is Cream Of Tartar Not A Cream?
Despite its name, the cream of tartar is not cream but a powdery substance. The name refers to its appearance rather than its texture or composition.
What Is Another Name For Cream Of Tartar?
Another name for the cream of tartar is potassium bitartrate, composed of potassium ions and bitartrate ions derived from tartaric acid.
Is Cream Of Tartar And Tartar Sauce the Same?
No, cream of tartar and tartar sauce are not the same. Cream of tartar is a powdery acid used in cooking and baking, while tartar sauce is a condiment typically made with mayonnaise, pickles, capers, and herbs, often served with seafood.
What Is The Benefit Of Cream Of Tartar In Baking?
Cream of tartar has several benefits in baking. It acts as a stabilizing agent for whipped egg whites and helps create a light and fluffy texture in cakes and meringues. It also works as a leavening agent when combined with baking soda, resulting in baked goods that rise and have a tender crumb.
Which Is Better, Cream Of Tartar Or Baking Powder?
Cream of tartar and baking powder serve different purposes in baking. Cream of tartar is often used in recipes that require specific acid balance or when a recipe calls for it explicitly. Baking powder, conversely, is a pre-mixed leavening agent that already contains cream of tartar along with baking soda and an acidic ingredient. The choice between them depends on the specific recipe requirements.