I am following the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Snickerdoodles, which calls for a 2:1 ratio of cream of tartar to baking soda. They state explicitly at the very top of the recipe:

Cream of tartar is essential to the flavor of these cookies and it works in combination with the baking soda to give these cookies a lift. Do not substitute baking powder.

Unfortunately, I'm in Sweden and supermarkets do not sell cream of tartar, only tartaric acid (vinsyra).

Previously I've simply substituted baking powder (against their recommendation), but now I am wondering if would be possible to use that tartaric acid to get the "characteristic tangy flavor" that they describe. If so, how?

  • E450 is a levitation agent in itself. I wanted to write something on line with the answer by @csk then saw it. It seems the answer to me. There is more on this site on why chemical baking powder might consist of different acids and their salts, at the moment I have not a short explanation. This latter is to say that there can be fine details but roughly they works the same. One parameter is T of the oven / T of decomposition of the agent. I would go with any formulation sold to serve as baking soda. Finally, tartar cream = potassium bitartrate - > you can use tartaric acid in a smaller amount. – Alchimista Dec 17 '20 at 9:47
  • Finally, searching for Snickerdoodle returns plenty of recipes calling for baking soda. Apparently the cream of tartar issue is a recurrent one, as usual when people write about things they have not clue at. – Alchimista Dec 17 '20 at 9:52
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    I already know that I can substitute baking powder (I mentioned that I've done this). My question was about adding tartaric acid for the tangy flavor. – jrc Dec 18 '20 at 10:18
  • I see now it is matter of flavour not levitation... Sorry. Well more or less all have tangy flavour If you mean an acidic note, normally it should be gone after baking. So basically we have all neglected what you were asking for. But again tartar cream wasn't selected for taste but for being an available natural agent left out by wine making process. Add just a bit of your tartaric acid then. The meaning of my answer was you can adapt it (unless some ingredients are incompatible with a too acidic environment). – Alchimista Dec 18 '20 at 10:26
  • The only dramatic point is that less grams of acid must be used if replacing bitartrate. If you are interested I can calculate. It will be about half. – Alchimista Dec 18 '20 at 10:30

I've never tried it, but you might try 1/2 the amount of tartaric acid based on information from Nigella Lawson :

Cream of tartar is made by combining tartaric acid with potassium hydroxide. This partially neutralizes the tartaric acid, so cream of tartar is less acidic than tartaric acid.

If the tartaric acid is used in baking or added to egg whites before whisking into meringues then it should be possible to use cream of tartar in roughly double the quantities of the tartaric acid, though we have not tested this. However we would not recommend using cream of tartar as a substitute in any other recipe.

  • Thanks, I hadn't seen this source, though they don't seem to be certain themselves of what they suggest :) – jrc Dec 12 '20 at 9:12

You can use baking powder instead of both the baking soda and the cream of tartar, in the proportions explained in this quote:

If your recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tarter, I would just use baking powder. One (1) teaspoon baking powder is equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. If there is additional baking soda that does not fit into the equation, simply add it to the batter. (Source)

Baking powder a mixture of baking soda and an acid. Various compounds are/were used as the acids by different manufacturers and at different time periods. Cream of tartar was one of the first acids used in baking powder. So your recipe basically has homemade baking powder. That might be because baking powder was not readily available at the place and time the recipe was written. Or it might be because early baking powders were not very shelf stable, so you would have gotten a more reliable rise by mixing your own baking powder.

If you want more details on this topic, the Wikipedia article has some interesting info.

  • This is true but doesn't answer the question. – jrc Dec 13 '20 at 23:29

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