Cream of Tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate)

Picture of a spoonful of Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar

If you’ve ever done any baking, I’m sure you’ve heard of cream of tartar.  But, what exactly is this stuff?  Cream of tartar is a fine white powder that is a by product of the wine making process. It has many culinary and household applications.

Description:

Cream of tartar is a white, odorless powder. More technically known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, it is a byproduct of the winemaking process. The powder forms inside wine barrels during fermentation. The chemical formula is KC4H5O6

Common Uses:

Cream of Tartar can be used to give a creamier texture to sugary things like cake frosting, sugary syrups, chocolates and candies. Without cream of tartar, the sugar will crystallize.

Cream of tartar can also be used to increase the heat tolerance and volume of beaten egg whites. You will often find it in meringues.

Sometimes, cream of tartar may be used to stabilize whip creams.

It may also be used in the production of carmine dye.

Health Issues / Side Effects:

There are two potential health issues associated with cream of tartar.  However,since it is usually used in such tiny amounts, the risks are probably minimal.

  1. It has an extremely high potassium content.  It contains 495 mg  of potassium per teaspoon. An average daily requirement for potassium is 3500 mg.  So, eople with kidney disease or people that take medication that decreases the ability of their kidneys to excrete potassium may experience issues.
  2. It may produce a laxative effect.

E Number:

The E number for potassium hydrogen tartrate is 336. It is classified as an acidity regulator.

Notes:

Homemade Baking Powder

Homemade baking powder can be made by combining baking soda and cream of tartar as the active acid ingredient.

To mix your own baking powder, combine 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Play Dough

I recently had to make some playdough for my son’s kindergarten class.  That recipe also called for cream of tartar.  In this case, it is used to prevent the salt from crystallizing.  It helps keep the play dough soft.

Other Uses for Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar can be used to clean brass and copper cookware.

References:

  1. The Spice House
  2. ParentMap.com – Putting Play Dough to the Test
  3. Baking Bites
  4. Fooducate
Posted in Baking, Food Additives, Ingredients

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