Mrs. Curtis's Cookbook circa 1909
Every Housekeeper should understand the nature of Baking Powder. This is important for two reasons; first, to insure perfect bakings and second, to avoid danger to health.
Baking Powder is not a food; it is a preparer of food only, and is used only for the leavening gas it produces to make the food light and sweet.
The perfect Baking Powder is the one which will evolve the most leavening gas and leave the smallest and most nearly neutral residue in the food.
A chemical examination of the many brands of baking powder on the market will show an enormous majority of them to be not only weak in gas, but either strongly acid or alkaline in reaction Sweet palatable food cannot be prepared with these powders.
The bread will be bleached and bitter on the one hand and yellow and alkaline on the other. This condition results from manufacturers working with a fixed formula year in and year out, regardless of the strength of their material.
An example of a perfect powder is the brand called Calumet Baking Powder. The makers use the very latest methods and employ competent chemists who analyze all ingredients. The result is a baking powder which gives the maximum of leavening gas and the minimum of residue, and that neutral left in the food.
The cream of tartar baking powders cannot be classed as modern powders, for they are made in the same way now as they were forty years ago. We cannot recommend them to our readers for two reasons; first the outrageously high price; Second, the residue of Rochelle salts they leave in the food.
Rochelle salts is the active principle of seidlitz powders and is harmful if its use is continued.
As authority, we quote the following:
The United States Department of Agriculture has declared in substance that: "A loaf of bread made from a quart of flour leavened with cream of tartar baking powder, contains 43 grains more of Rochelle salts that is contained in Seidlitz powder"
(see bulletin 13)
Dr. Moreau Morris, of the New York Board of Health, says: "It may be that I am a little prejudiced but I think I express the consensus of the medical profession when I say that Rochelle salts should never be used by a person except by a physicians advice. Its continued use induces a very unhealthy condition of the stomach and especially the bowels, and finally produces constipation of an aggravated type."
Dr. A, Warner Shepard, formerly Health Officer in Brooklyn, said: "I have not the slightest doubt that the mental and physical health of thousands is permanently injured by the excessive use of Rochelle salts in impure beers, bread and other forms of food and drink. It is certainly a factor in the alarming increase of Bright's disease of the kidneys, and similar complaints. It irritates the kidneys, bowels, and stomach and may therefore produce most unfortunate results."
Unfortunately a great deal of misinformation has been disseminated by interested manufacturers, and it is said upon good authority that $500,000 are now being spent every year by a single firm, to advertise the "pure" qualities of cream of tartar.
As a matter of fact, most of the cream of tartar used in the manufacture of baking powder is made from the dregs of wine vats, and the residue left after the chemical action in the process of baking take place, is unhealthful.
Calumet Baking Powder leaves little or no residue, while high price cream of tartar powders leave about 70 per cent of their weight in the food in the form of Rochelle salts.
Baking powder may be pure in the can and unwholesome in the bread. A reaction takes place in the process of baking, so that the substance left in the bread is entirely different that the material that entered the can, because of chemical processes in the baking.
The statement that a powder contains this or that substance may be misleading, for the reason that the consumer wants to know what goes into his stomach, and not what goes into the can.
Brands of baking powder put up with the private firm name of a local merchant are usually found to be of inferior quality at least. The local dealer's name is generally injured by this custom, since his own reputation, not that of the manufacturer, goes behind the powder, and the merchant is usually not competent to judge the quality of the product.
The cheap or big-can baking powders have but one recommendation; they certainly give the purchaser plenty of powder for her money. These powders are so carelessly made from inferior materials that they will not make light, wholesome food, as they have a very small percentage of leavening gas.
Cheap baking powders leave the bread sometimes bleached and acid, sometimes yellow and alkaline, and often unpalatable. They are never of uniform strength and quality.
There are in other words, two extremes that should be avoided by the careful housewife. On the one hand, the so-called trust made goods, sold at fabulous prices in order to pay the trust dividends of some ten million of dollars a year on a sale of something like ten millions of pounds a year, and on the other hand, the cheap, big-can powders just mentioned.
A first class powder may be sold at a fair profit for about twenty five cents a pound. Of course, this cannot be done if the manufacturer must pay five hundred thousand dollars a year for advertising, and also pay dividends of two millions of dollars a year on twenty millions of dollars of watered stock.
It has been estimated that it costs one company something like thirty cents a pound to sustain its business policy, before beginning to manufacture its powder. Obviously, the public must pay these huge bills and this fact would of itself account for fifty cents a pound price.
A careful study of the various brands of baking powder before the public has led us to believe that the powder which received the "highest award" at the World's Pure Food Exposition at Chicago- Calumet Baking Powder- embodies all the points desired in a perfect baking powder.
1st. Greatest leavening power.
2nd. Moderateness in price.
3rd. Absolute uniformity.
4th. Small amount of harmless residue in the food.
The makers of Calumet Baking Powder offer a reward of $1,000.00 to anyone who can find in food prepared with Calumet any substance injurious to health. This reward has never been claimed and because of this fact, and our belief in the goods after a very rigid examination, together with the moderate price, this powder has been especially recommended in the recipes in Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book.