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How can I tell if my baking powder is still fresh after a few months on the shelf? 

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 9:18 am

Dear Barbara: I have two questions. My baking powder didn’t seem to be doing its job, so I tossed it out. How can I tell if baking powder is still good? It had not reached its expiration date. Also, I purchased new baking powder and I noticed that it said “double-acting” on the label. I don’t remember seeing that on my other baking powder, but this was a different brand. What’s the difference between baking powder and double-acting baking powder? — Liz from Lodi

Dear Liz: One way to check if your baking powder is still good is to take a glass of room temperature water and add a teaspoon of the baking powder to it. It should fizz, which is an indication that it is still good.

Also look for clumps of baking powder in the can. If there are clumps, it means that moisture has somehow gotten into the can and the baking powder is no longer useable, even if it has not reached the expiration date.

Baking powder must be kept in a very dry place. This means don’t keep it, or set the can, by the stove where there would be steam. Also be sure that your measuring spoons are absolutely dry before you put the spoon in the can.

Double-acting means that there are two leavening agents in it. One reacts immediately to moisture in the batter and the other reacts to heat. Both are needed to make the batter rise as much as possible. It is my understanding that all baking powder now sold in grocery stores is double-acting baking powder.

Perhaps the label on your new baking powder, being a different brand, just made the words “double-acting” more noticeable. If it weren’t double-acting, the batter would only react to the liquid and not the heat and would have to be baked immediately to make it rise. It also wouldn’t rise nearly as much.

Dear Barbara: I was talking to someone and she said growing up, her mother would make something called a runza. When I asked what it was, she said it was a sandwich.

I’ve never heard of that or seen it in any magazines that I remember. What kind of sandwich is a runza? — Susan from Lodi

Dear Susan: A runza is a German type of sandwich made of bread dough with a ground beef, onion, and sauerkraut filling. I call them pocket sandwiches, some call them bierocks or fleischkuche.

When the Germans from Russia settled in the Midwest, they brought the recipe with them.

My mother-in-law taught me how to make them. I cheat and use Bridgeford bread dough and just cut each loaf into ten slices. She suggested to stretch the dough over your hand while it is still very cool and place the filling in the center, pinch the sides together and bake them seam side down. It is a little time consuming, so I make a lot of them at one time, bake and freeze them.

They travel well and make a fast and tasty lunch.You can experiment with the filling and put just about anything you want in it as long as there is not a lot of liquid and you let the filling cool before stuffing.

You could also roll the dough out and just fold it over the filling. If you do that, you now have a type of pirogi, or pirozhke, which has more of a Russian influence. Kids love them, maybe not with the sauerkraut, but they are fun to eat. You should serve them warm.

Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at Please include your first name and city.



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