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What Does Vinegar Do in Baking? (4 Key Functions)

What Does Vinegar Do in Baking? (4 Key Functions)

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Out of all of the possible ingredients that you would use in any traditional baking recipe, vinegar might not be the first one that comes to mind. The sour taste and pungent smell of vinegar are likely enough for you to have dismissed it as an option entirely. However, do not overlook this common kitchen ingredient, as it may come in more handy than you think.

Vinegar is more often than not an essential ingredient in many traditional baking recipes and, contrary to popular belief, has a wide range of uses for baking. Vinegar can be used for assisting raising agents, stabilizing, and can even be used as a substitute for eggs and buttermilk.

By now, we are confident that your interest has peaked. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. If it is not already, vinegar will become one of the most crucial grocery items in your kitchen, particularly if you are an avid baker. Discover all that vinegar can do for your baked goods and why it should never be left out of your recipes. 

What Does Vinegar Do In Baking?

White Vinegar

If you have ever baked a cake, muffins, bread, or almost anything really, it is highly likely that you have come across vinegar on the list of required ingredients. Although it may seem like vinegar shouldn’t be brought anywhere near your delicious cake or bread, it actually plays a far more significant role than you might be aware of. 

White vinegar is arguably the most common form of vinegar used in baking. However, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar are also known to make their fair share of appearances on a recipe’s list of ingredients. 

Except for balsamic vinegar, most kinds of vinegar like white vinegar and apple cider vinegar surprisingly do not alter the taste of your baked goods in ways that you might expect them to. Instead, the adding of vinegar to your baked goods does far more for the overall product in structure, appearance, and a host of other benefits.

Let us explore all of the incredible ways that vinegar can assist and improve your overall baking experience and ensure the best possible final product.

1 – Vinegar Assists Raising Agents

One of the first and arguably most helpful uses for vinegar in baked goods is that it is a wonderful ingredient when used to assist raising agents. Even if you have never baked before, you will know what happens when vinegar comes into contact with baking soda.

When acids like vinegar come into contact with baking soda, carbon dioxide gas is released, which is essential in aiding cakes, muffins, and cookies to rise as they bake. If your baked goods do not rise properly, the final product will undoubtedly be poor. Adding only a splash of vinegar will do wonders in preventing a kitchen nightmare.

2 – Vinegar Functions as a Stabilizer

Meringue Tartlets

If you have ever enjoyed a good meringue, then you will know that what makes it so perfect is its overall stability, maintaining a crisp exterior, and a delicious chewy center. Anyone who has ever attempted to bake a meringue before will tell you that achieving this perfect blend of results is no easy task.

Once again, vinegar comes to the rescue and is unquestionably one of the sole contributors to baking the perfect meringue. A small amount of vinegar is enough to slow down the formation of sulfur bonds in egg whites, which results in them becoming almost silky in appearance, and ultimately results in a higher and more even rise.

3 – Vinegar Works Well as a Substitute

Vinegar also makes an excellent substitute for ingredients that you might not expect, eggs being one of them. Some say that substituting eggs for vinegar in standard cake recipes began sometime during World War II when egg rationing was being enforced. It may seem like an unnatural or unlikely substitution, but the results speak for themselves.

Ultimately, adding vinegar to the cake batter increases the batter’s acidity, which results in the proteins found in flour to set while the cake is baking. What you would expect from eggs is what you can expect from vinegar. Your cake will come out both fluffy and moist – the perfect combination. 

You could also substitute buttermilk by mixing vinegar with fresh milk. Once it has curdled slightly, it will work just as effectively as what buttermilk would.

4 – Vinegar Can Brighten the Color of Baked Goods

Red velvet cupcakes are one of those baked goods that have taken the world by storm. The now-iconic bright-red cake topped with white frosting is undoubtedly a favorite in many households and café’s alike. 

Beetroot is a common ingredient in red velvet cake, used for its added moisture and, of course, its vibrant red color. We’ll spare you all of the scientific details, but vinegar actually brightens the natural color of many fruits. Adding a dash of vinegar to your red velvet recipe will ensure that you have the most vibrant-looking cakes in town. 

The Uses of Vinegar in Bread Baking

Rising Dough

Vinegar can also be an excellent addition to bread-making recipes. The first and most obvious benefit is that vinegar will assist in the rising of the bread dough. The way it does this is by strengthening the structure of the gluten in the dough, which will ultimately prevent any air pockets from bursting and ruin your attempt at making some delicious bread. 

Vinegar can also assist yeast fermentation, which in turn increases the rate that the bread dough will rise. 

Vinegar can also do wonders for the flavor of the bread – in small amounts, of course. Other benefits of adding vinegar to bread dough include attaining a light texture to the bread, as well as a moist crumb. It is incredible to see how one seemingly unusual ingredient can have such a significant impact on baking something like bread. 

Finally, if you want your bread to come out of the oven with a beautiful golden-brown crust, all you need to do is brush it with a small amount of vinegar a few minutes before you take it out of the oven. 

Other Uses for Vinegar in Baking

If your baked good has turned out to be much sweeter than you intended – particularly desserts – then adding a small amount of vinegar can do wonders to balance out the flavors. 

Final Thoughts

By now, it is likely that you are ready to grab your keys and head over to your local supermarket to purchase the biggest bottle of vinegar you can find and add it to just about everything that you want to bake. Vinegar is undoubtedly a baker’s asset, and learning to use it wisely can revolutionize your overall baking experience. 

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Tuesday 14th of March 2023

Hi Sarah, I am Chris, Great article on using apple cider and regular vinegar in baking. I hope you can help me on this topic. I have been making protein / meal replacement bars for a few years for myself and they are pretty tasty. A few friends are nudging me to do small batches and actually sell them locally and on Etsy. So I have looked over many so-called healthy bars out there and most are crap with what is on them, totally not really healthy. But a few common things I see in a lot of granola and protein bars with oats etc is the added apple cider vinegar. Besides the reasons listed above in your article is there a reason so many bars add this like shelf life or something?

Thank you Chris