Cream of tartar is called for in many baking recipes. But what do you know about it?
A byproduct of wine and grape-juice processing, cream of tartar is a white powder, not a liquid. It’s an acidic salt that acts as a stabilizer in recipes that require whipped egg whites, such as meringue, angel food cake and souffles.
When whipped, egg whites (also known as albumen) can swell up to eight times their initial volume. The acidity of cream of tartar helps egg whites achieve their full volume and stabilizes them by helping hold in water and air.
Cream of tartar also has an effect on baked goods’ color. Angel food cakes made with it are notably whiter than cakes made without.
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There is no exact substitute for cream of tartar. Adding 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice per egg white will help, but it’s less effective than cream of tartar.
What else can you do with cream of tartar? It can be used to help certain vegetables keep their natural color when steamed or boiled, such as red cabbage, potatoes and cauliflower. Adding 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the cooking water will raise the acidity and prevent discoloration.