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A family member has a dairy allergy so we often substitute non-dairy milk in recipes. Most often, this is almond (it's what we have in the house for the kids to drink, and is therefore always on hand). However, if a recipe involves baking soda or baking powder, almond milk produces a less satisfying rise and there's a bitter aftertaste.

I think this means that the baking soda is not reacting fully with the almond milk. Soy milk does provide the same "lift" and eliminates the bitterness the same way that dairy milk would. What's causing this? Is it possible to adjust our baking powder recipes to use almond milk, or do we need to buy two kinds of milk (one to bake with, one to drink)?

While I'm hoping to get a general rule of thumb, here are a couple of the recipes we have noticed this with for reference. Pancakes:

1 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1 egg

and muffins:

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins, plumped
1 egg
1 cup milk

I did find a Question about almond milk in pancakes, but I'm hoping to get a more general answer about how baking soda/powder and almond milk work together (or, more accurately, fail to work together).

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+50

Baking soda reacts with acid to create CO2 and lift.
Baking powder already has the necessary acid included.

Cow's milk is slightly acidic. Almond milk is slightly alkaline.
It may be that there is just a little bit less of the necessary acid to make your leavening react.

Experiment adding a little acid. Cream of tartar would be nice because it wouldn't throw off your liquid ratios or change the flavor. Lemon juice could also be used. I would start with 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar.

However, browsing around there are plenty of people online who don't seem to be having any trouble using almond milk in baking. It may be that the almond milk is a red herring and there are other variables that aren't controlled.
For example: Maybe the leavening was stale? Maybe the temperature of your oven was off?

  • The problem is generally subtle (I can barely taste it myself!), and wouldn't be as noticeable if we didn't cook the same recipes with different kinds of milk (e.g. with almond milk one day, then with soy milk a couple days later). I'm sure the kids will appreciate many batches of pancakes while I attempt cream of tartar to adjust! :) – Erica Apr 8 '15 at 0:40

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