What is Cream of Tartar

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Discover everything about Cream of Tartar, its culinary uses, popular substitutes, and expert tips. Perfect for food enthusiasts and home cooks!

small jar of McCormick cream of tartar with a red lid
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Cream of tartar, scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, is a versatile and often misunderstood ingredient in the culinary world. It’s a byproduct of winemaking and has a multitude of uses in both cooking and baking. This spice is typically used in small quantities and it can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or online.

This versatile spice is used for making biscuits and in desserts like homemade snickerdoodle cookies, meringue cookies, lemon chiffon cake and my easy lemon meringue pie.

small jar of McCormick cream of tartar with a red lid on a wooden board

Why You Need Cream of Tartar

  • Stabilizing Agent: Cream of tartar is beloved for its ability to stabilize egg whites in meringues and soufflés, preventing them from collapsing.
  • Prevents Crystallization: It’s a savior in candy making as it inhibits sugar crystallization, ensuring smooth and glossy confections.
  • Leavening Power: When combined with baking soda, it acts as a leavening agent in many baking recipes, contributing to the rise and fluffiness of cakes and cookies.
  • Taste Enhancer: It can also enhance flavors in certain dishes, giving a subtle tang and complexity.
POV hand holding a small jar of McCormick cream of tartar with a red lid
  • Tartaric acid substitute: In some recipes, cream of tartar can be substituted with lemon juice or white vinegar, although the acid levels may differ, so adjustments may be needed.
  • Lemon Juice or White Vinegar: Ideal for stabilizing egg whites; use an equal amount as a substitute.
  • Baking Powder: If your recipe calls for baking soda and cream of tartar, you can substitute both with baking powder.
  • Buttermilk: In baked goods, replace some liquid with buttermilk if you’re out of cream of tartar.
  • Homemade Baking Powder: Mix cream of tartar with baking soda to make homemade baking powder.
  • Snickerdoodle Cookies: A classic use of cream of tartar, giving these cookies their signature tangy flavor and soft texture.
  • Playdough: Non-culinary but popular, cream of tartar helps in making homemade playdough.

Cream of Tartar FAQs

Is cream of tartar the same as tartaric acid?

No, they are different. Cream of tartar is the potassium salt derivative of tartaric acid.

Can I omit cream of tartar in a recipe?

It depends on the recipe. For some, it’s crucial for texture and stability, while for others, it can be omitted without much difference.

How should I store cream of tartar?

Keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

small jar of McCormick cream of tartar with a red lid

Expert Tips

  • Quality Matters: Always use fresh, high-quality cream of tartar for the best results.
  • Measure Correctly: Precise measurement is key as too much can cause a bitter taste.
  • Storing: An airtight container is essential to prevent clumping and to maintain its potency.
  • Cleaning agent: Cream of tartar can also be used as a natural cleaning agent for removing stains, rust, and tarnish.
grocery display of spices and seasonings

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