Scientifically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, cream of tartar is an acidic salt primarily used in cooking and baking. It is obtained when tartaric acid is neutralized with potassium hydroxide, thus, resulting in a salt that can be used for cooking. In the process of making wine, cream of tartar forms a crust at the bottom of the barrel, which is then removed and purified to obtain its clear form.
The reason it is available as a result of the wine making process is because grapes are a natural source of tartaric acid, which then leaves cream of tartar as a residue in the process of wine fermentation. As important as it is in the process of baking, one may also use substitutes for this product in any recipe.
Little is known about the several uses of this product called cream of tartar. So before we take a look at what you can substitute it with let's take a look at its uses in cooking and other areas.
- Adding Volume to the Final Product: Cream of tartar is mainly used to add volume to the frothy and airy texture of egg whites. The combination used is 1/8th of a teaspoon for every egg white.
- Giving a Smooth Texture to Frosting: To attain a smooth and creamy texture for frosting and icing, using cream of tartar is a good option as it prevents the crystallization of sugar.
- A Substitute for Other Foods: If you require a substitute for baking powder, cream of tartar can be used along with baking soda.
- Cleaning Household Items: In the house, using cream of tartar with lemon juice can help remove some stains from clothing. It can also be used to clean brass, copper and other pots and pans, when used with vinegar.
So what do you do when you decide to prepare a delicious baked product and the recipe calls for cream of tartar, which you probably don't have in your kitchen? You use its substitute, or in some cases, leave it out completely.
- Baking Powder: The best product to substitute for cream of tartar in baking is baking powder. As mentioned above, an important baking powder substitute is cream of tartar if it is used in combination with baking soda. Similarly, in its absence, you may use baking powder to attain the texture you are looking for. Use 1 teaspoon baking powder for every 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and every 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.
- Lemon/Vinegar: Another substitute that you can use while beating egg whites is white vinegar or lemon. As is the case with the amount of cream of tartar for egg whites, even vinegar is used in the ratio of 1/8th teaspoon of vinegar for every egg white. Since white vinegar or lemon has the ability to alter the taste of the food item you are baking, it is always wiser to use baking powder as a substitute rather than using vinegar. This is because some bakers have noticed that when vinegar is used in baking, cakes have coarser grains, rough textures and shrink easily.
Cream of tartar is easily available at several stores and can even be ordered over the Internet. So it is relatively easily available. But if you are looking for a quick alternative, the aforementioned substitutes will be of help. They may however, alter the taste of the final product to a certain extent. So use your discretion and decide which substitute will work well for any given recipe.