[Sca-cooks] chemical leavening

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Thu Feb 26 04:24:38 PST 2009

On Feb 25, 2009, at 11:51 PM, Terry Decker wrote:

> An excellent considration.  Somewhere among my papers, I have what  
> purports to be a translation of a recipe from the 1590's that uses  
> hartshorn as leavening.  I have yet to find the source to determine  
> if it is an accurate translation or modern fudging of an older  
> recipe.  If I can locate it, I'll post it.  Beyond that, my personal  
> collection of recipes has mostly mid to late 19th Century recipes  
> with chemical leavens.

That was more or less my understanding, too. We seem to be sorta  
dancing around in circles and never actually getting to the point of  
proving the point one way or the other, but because we keep talking  
about it...

> Root suggests that actual hart's horn was used as a leaven in the  
> 16th Century and was replaced by ammonium carbonate.  I'm not sure  
> how to produce an edible leavening gas from bone, so this statement  
> is questionable, until proven or disproven.

OK, but if we're looking at the alkaloid properties of bone, why use  
horn? Does processed horn include the bone, or just the proteinaceous  
outer layer? -- I thought the latter. If the natural descendant of the  
process is ammonium carbonate, you'd need that nitrogen atom, right,  
and if it's coming from an animal, doesn't that suggest protein,  
collagen, keratin, that sort of thing?

How do you get CO2 or another leavening gas directly from protein? I  
think the answer is you don't, that you have to turn it into ash and  
distill from that an ammonia salt.

> The Oxford Companion to Food, under baking powder. give a 1790 date  
> for the use of pearl ash as a leavening agent prior to the creation  
> of baking powder.  No reference to hartshorn.

I seem to recall the BASF essay pointing out that potash, pearl ash,  
and finally soda ash, were used early on (and 1790 sounds about right)  
in conjunction with sourdough, to increase aeration.

> It is worth noting neither source provides a primary source for the  
> information.

Jeez, it's a couple of authenticity cops we are, aren't we? But for  
those who become exasperated when others natter on on listservs about  
primary sources, well, this is why ;-).


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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