“What is cream of tartar?”

Chemical structure of cream of tartar. (Image: Jü)

Said the Four-Year-Old, on hearing that we needed cream of tartar to make snickerdoodles last week. Mommyo duly made a note to Ask the iPhone sometime when she wasn’t up to her elbows in creamed butter and sugar.

Days pass, and naturally, the iPhone is never asked, until Sunday morning when Daddyo announced that we would need cream of tartar to cook up a batch of Play-Doh.

Pause, then Daddyo: “What is cream of tartar anyway?”

The Four-Year-Old: “Yes, Mommyo, has Caterpickles told you yet?”

Caterpickles has been stubbornly silent on the subject of cream of tartar or as we science-y types like to refer to it, potassium hydrogen tartrate.

Fortunately, Baking Bites is more forthcoming. From it, I’ve learned that:

1) We have the wine industry to thank for this mysterious white powder. Derived from tartaric acid, a naturally occurring substance in grapes, cream of tartar collects along the inside of the wine barrel during the fermentation process.

2) As those of you who are in the habit of mixing your own baking powder at home already know, when purified cream of tartar is a major component of baking powder.

3) Baking soda + cream of tartar + water = home chemistry fun. (Or satisfactorily risen baked goods, depending on your motivations for breaking out the potassium hydrogen tartrate cream of tartar in your home chemistry lab kitchen.)

4) In addition to its critical role in snickerdoodle and Play-Doh production, cream of tartar is often used to give candies a creamier texture. Apparently adding cream of tartar to the mix can prevent cooked sugar from crystallizing. Go figure.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to stir the Play-Doh.

Look at all these things you can do with cream of tartar!

What’s your favorite recipe?

3 comments

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