Baking Basics: What are Leavening Agents?

Nik Sharma

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The Flavor Files is a read-supported online space for curious cooks passionate about flavor. Learn how to cook with bold flavors to create food that nourishes and satisfies and apply food science to make you a smarter cook, written by Multi-award Winning and Bestselling author and photographer Nik Sharma.

Leavening 101

In baking, “Leaven” means to make the dough lighter by adding gas. This gas doesn’t necessarily need to be air, it can also be carbon dioxide, and the gas can be introduced by physical, chemical, and biological methods or, more precisely, leavening agents. Leavening agents work by capturing or producing, and trapping air in batters and doughs. The extent to which they work will define the texture of the baked good. Without those air bubbles trapped in bread, cakes, or cookies, their texture would be unpleasant, tough, and heavy.

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