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What is it in canned biscuits that makes them puff up immediately upon opening the can yet stops them from raising further? What kind of food voodoo is at work here? Please explain the food science behind this and what additives cause this effect in the "food".

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I'd like to know too :) –  Jolenealaska Oct 24 '13 at 7:59
    
I don't think this is a food additive or anything to do with food science: the cans are simply packed under pressure, so when you open them, they "pop". –  Marti Oct 24 '13 at 14:02
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3 Answers 3

It could be achieved with almost any leavening, but I suspect it's baking soda or baking powder, and not yeast.

You'd just need to package it before the reaction is completed, and let it finish in the container. This would create additional gas, which would pressurize the can.

As for why it doesn't continue to rise, it's because they can control how much leavening goes in, so they'll have a known amount of gas created. Once that gas gets to one atmospheric pressure (roughly, depending on how close to sea level you are), it'll expand appropriately.

It's effectively the same sort of process that happens with fizzy drinks -- when you open the bottle or can, you allow the interior pressure to equalize with the surrounding, which causes the bubbles to escape. The difference in that case is that the bubbles are dissolved in the liquid, and so may need some agitation or nucleation sites to escape. But there's still a fixed amount of bubbling that could happen.

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I did check; there is no yeast in the ingredient list. –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 24 '13 at 14:47
    
@SAJ14SAJ Does it list ammonium bicarbonate, or just say leavening agents? –  Wayfaring Stranger Dec 19 '13 at 17:06
    
@WayfaringStranger Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Soybean and Palm Oil, Sugar, Hydrogenated Palm Oil*, Baking Powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate). Contains 2% or less of: Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil*, Salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, Dextrose, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Alginate, TBHQ (preservative), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Color Added.*Adds A Trivial Amount Of Trans Fat –  SAJ14SAJ Dec 19 '13 at 17:26
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My suspicion is that the dough is pressurized, which shrinks the gas bubbles in the dough and allows Pillsbury to make smaller, denser containers of dough. When you open the can, the bubbles can expand again, making the dough puff up. I don't have any proof of this, but this Yahoo Answers page mentions it (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080513195851AABE3vl) and the "Biscuit Bullet" myth (as seen on Mythbusters) seems to corroborate it also.

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I suspect the leavener that does the initial puffing up is ammonium bicarbonate. Ammonium bicarbonate breaks down completely to CO2 + ammonia at temperatures above 30 some centigrade, is a common biscuit ingredient for that reason, and is featured in at least one of Pillsbury's recent dough patents.

This is likely not correct answer, as ammonium bicarb dioesn't appear on the ingredient list SAJ14SAJ provides.

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