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Do You Have Baker’s Ammonia?

Growing up, my mom bought Baker’s Ammonia every year before her holiday baking season began from our local pharmacy.

When I was an adult, that pharmacy went out of business, but we found it at other pharmacies. Heck, we even found it at a large discount retail chain pharmacy.  It did become much harder to find over the years and often required a trip to the Amish country to locate.

After we moved south, I called around to all the local, regional, and national pharmacies in the area including that large discount retail chain looking for it. To my amazement not only did no one have it, even the pharmacists had no clue what I was talking about despite my also calling it Ammonia Carbonate.

In case you are not familiar, Baker’s Ammonia ( aka. Ammonium Carbonate, Hartshorn) is an old fashioned leavening ingredient that pre-dates baking powder and baking soda (the term Hartshorn was literal once).

It is activated by heat instead of moisture, thus much of it evaporates during the baking process.  The smell of ammonia does fill the kitchen and your nose, but it does dissipate quickly.

I do not think it is a direct substitute for other leavening agents.  It is good for crisp cookies, crackers and even cream puffs, but I would not want it used in a cake.

It is easier to find in certain geographic areas of the United States than others.  It is still available in pharmacies, but it can also be purchased sometimes in the craft department of that large retailer, Jungle Jim’s near Cincinnati,  Amazon, King Arthur, and other web sites and specialty stores.

The good news is it can be kept for a very long time once you find where to buy it.  However, it does need to be kept in an air tight container or else it will liquefy or evaporate.

My mom may have had an easier time finding Baker’s Ammonia to purchase, but it was only sold in lump form then.  I remember her pounding the lumps with a rolling pin trying to crush it and then waiting a long time for the ammonia to dissolve in milk so it could be used in the lemon crackers.

I am glad it is sold in powder form today.

Comments

  1. Julie Wright says:

    I also found ammonium bicarbonate through a local pharmacy.
    Makes cookies fantastically crispy. The odor of the ammonium
    baking off wasn’t offensive, I found.
    Thanks for posting and I will try Jungle Jims market!

    • Julie,
      I love Jungle Jim’s especially for those harder to find items. I bought the one labeled Hirschhorn Salz in the picture there. I believe it was in the German area. Thanks for stopping by the blog! Happy baking!

  2. Ive been trying to buy Bakers Amonia or ammonium carbonate in lump form. I think my mothers cookies were better when I used to have to crush the lumps. The house smelled stronger of amonia but they tasted better. Is the hirshbaum saltz in the picture the lumpier form of bakers amonia, or is it crushed too? Im having trouble on the internet finding anyone who specifically sells the large crystal form of bakers amonis. Anyone who could help, id appreciate it!

    • The package labelled “Hirshbaum Saltz” in the picture is not in lump form either; however, it is by far the best I have found in recent years. I had an issue when I used using Baker’s ammonia that had apparently been sitting in storage and on the shelf for a while before I purchased it…the results were far less than desirable. I think the packaging of the “Saltz” pictured and buying from a retailer who has a lot of turnover of the stock has made all the difference. The other bottle pictured is more commonly found…. Amazon has a selection of baker’s ammonia, but they are all powdered as well.

  3. Can any of you tell me how to convert my Mom’s recipe?

    It says 3-4 ammonia cubes. I’m unsure how big the “lumps” are you refer to above.

    I bought some baker’s ammonia at the local kitchen store, but it is in powder form. My Mom passed away in 2011 with the secret conversion!

    • Rose, I am not sure how much help I can be having never used or even seen baker’s ammonia in cube form. I do have a Swedish cookie recipe in an old cookbook that calls for it in cubes…ironically, it does not say how many cubes. The “lumps” referred to in my post and comments were of all different sizes…not remotely a standardized form of crystallization. My grandmother’s lemon cracker recipe calls for 7 cups of flour and 1 oz. (30 g) or about 2 Tbsp. of baker’s ammonia. I have another recipes for cookies that call for 1 or 2 tsp. of baker’s ammonia for every 2 cups flour used. My best guess would be comparing it to other recipes using baker’s ammonia with similar ingredients to see how much this might be needed. Please let me know if I can do anything else to try and help.

      • Thank you for the information. The first recipe of 2 Tbsp per 7 cups of flour converts to just under 1 tsp per cup of flour and the 2nd is 1 tsp for 2 cups … I think I’ll go with 1 tsp per cup and see where that takes us. We’ll be making the recipe tomorrow and I’ll let you know how the conversion went!

        Just a side note: I even called our local pharmacist .. he laughed!

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