[Sca-cooks] Bakers borax again

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sun Aug 19 14:41:17 PDT 2012

That is an excellent quote.  I obviously need to add a copy of the work to 
my collection.

While I haven't used sodium carbonate this way, potash, potassium carbonate, 
is often used in German baking to glaze pretzels and breads.  Dissolve a 
small amount in water and brush it onto the crust before baking.

Thinking about this after imbibing my coffee, I realized that, sodium 
bicarbonate aside, any of the carbonates will, in the presence of water or 
an acid, will produce CO2 for leavening.  If you use water, the hydroxides 
produced by the reaction may impart a soapy taste to the bread, which can be 
counter-acted by using enough weak acid, sour milk, lemon juice, etc., to 
neutalize the hydroxides.

The fact that al-Warraq knows natron to be a leavening agent, suggests that 
a similar use of carbonate (IIRC) in Soup for the Qan may also have been as 
leavening rather than as a tenderizing agent as discussed a few years ago.

BTW, the question of when the sweet potato arrived in the Islamic world is 
fascinating.  There is little documentation and most authorities say about 
1550, but I think I can make a case for three different points of 
introduction between 1525 and 1560.  Total speculation, but possibly 
accurate.  I'll post my ideas after checking the historical details and 
fully exploring the possibilities.


> al-Warraq is pretty explicit that it's  leavening. In one of the recipes, 
> discussing what can go wrong, he mentions the possibility of dead yeast 
> and suggests adding more buraq to make up for it.
> "If the yeast was bad, add some more borax to the batter." (p. 415)
> Nasrallah says it was also used to give bread a shiny surface, but I 
> don't think there are any recipes in al-Warraq that do that. Any guess 
> what that might imply about the nature of bakers' borax?

More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list