When preparing whipped potatoes as a side dish, you aim for both the best flavor and the right texture. While some families prefer a dense mashed potato, chock full of heavy butter and cream, others want a fluffy whip. Adding baking soda to whipped potatoes changes the texture of the dish, and can alter the flavor as well.
1. Baking Soda in Whipped Potatoes
In the kitchen, baking soda serves as a leavening agent, in reaction with an acid, such as lemon juice or buttermilk, raising quick breads, muffins and cakes made without yeast. Similarly, in whipped potatoes, baking soda reacts with the heat of the dish and any acidity added to create pockets of air throughout the potatoes during the whipping process. These pockets of air add a lightness and fluffiness to the whipped potatoes.
2. Making Whipped Potatoes
Although some densely mashed potatoes contain lumps and skin, the perfect whipped potato has a light, smooth texture. Peel the potatoes before cooking or choose a soft-skinned potato such as Yukon Gold. Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil in a large pot where they can spread out, covered in water and salted. When the potatoes reach a level of tenderness where they're at the brink of falling apart, drain in a colander and return them to the pan. Add cream, buttermilk or milk, butter to taste and seasonings. Puree with a hand mixer or potato ricer until smooth.
3. Adding Baking Soda to Whipped Potatoes
Add baking soda to cooked potatoes before whipping them. After draining the cooked potato chunks and returning them to the pot, sprinkle a pinch of baking soda over the potatoes, along with the other seasonings, before adding the buttermilk or cream. Stir the potatoes to distribute the baking soda and other seasonings before adding the liquid to ensure even distribution without the need to over-whip in the pureeing step. Reduce the amount of salt you would normally use to season the potatoes when adding baking soda because baking soda contains sodium.
Adding baking soda to whipped potatoes before mashing creates a fluffier, lighter texture in the finished potatoes. Because the milk or cream added is slightly acidic, it reacts with the baking soda to create small bubbles of air scattered throughout the potatoes. Adding buttermilk instead of milk or cream intensifies this effect because it is more acidic. Too much baking soda will change the flavor of the potatoes, making them taste salty or bitter. It's best to experiment, adding as little as possible at first, and add slightly more on each subsequent batch until reaching the desired effect. Serve fluffy and smooth whipped potatoes spooned up at the table, or piped through a pastry bag into decorative swirls.
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