Friday Food Definition: Cream of Tartar

So funny story about cream of tartar is that it’s an ingredient called for when I attempted to make menrigues. Being a novice baker (and cook), I’ve never worked with Cream of Tartar before and did not know where to look in the grocery store. Guess where I started looking? The dairy section! I mean… I think cream, I think dairy! I was very surprised when the cheese lady directed me to the spice aisle. Whaaa? Sure enough it was in a spice bottle and it’s white and powdery.

I did a little clicking around on the Internet and found that the chemical term for Cream of Tartar is Potassium bitartrate and is a byproduct of winemaking. I needed it in my meringue to stabilize the egg whites. I’ll let Wikipedia take it from here.

As taken from Wikipedia:

Occurrence

Potassium bitartrate crystallises in wine casks during the fermentation of grape juice, and can precipitate out of wine in bottle. The crystals will often form on the underside of a cork in wine bottles that have been stored at temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and will seldom, if ever dissolve, naturally into the wine.

The crude form (known as beeswing) is collected and purified to produce the white, odorless, acidic powder used for many culinary and other household purposes.

Applications in Food

In food, potassium bitartrate is used for:

Stabilizing egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume;
Preventing sugar syrups from crystallising;
Reducing discolouration of boiled vegetables;
Frequent combination with baking soda (which needs an acid ingredient to activate it) in formulations of baking powder.
Commonly used in combination with potassium chloride in sodium-free salt substitutes

So there you have it. Cream of Tartar is not creamy.

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