Why Sparkling Water Is The Perfect Addition For Fluffy Baked Goods

Aside from calorie-free hydration, there's another reason to put your SodaStream to work or to stock up on your favorite sparkling water brand. The carbonated beverage just so happens to be the not-so-secret ingredient you can add to doughs and batters to create all kinds of super fluffy baked goods.

It's a long-held belief that the key to light and airy matzo balls is the addition of seltzer in the dough. The air bubbles aerate the dumplings, making them buoyant so they can float in the clear broth. But, the flavorless carbonated beverage is also helpful in other batter-based recipes, from breakfast to dinner.

If you've been struggling with dense loaves of gluten-free bread, replacing still water with seltzer may be your remedy. Gluten provides bread's structure — it works with yeast to make the dough rise and stretch without snapping, which gives traditional loaves an airy texture. Since sparkling water and other carbonated beverages contain carbon dioxide and are more acidic than regular water, they can actually replicate the benefits of gluten, distributing bubbles throughout the dough and creating pockets of air as it bakes for the ultimate cheat code for chewy gluten-free bread.

Batters can benefit from seltzer water, too

Whether your batter-based dish is cooked on a griddle or in the oven, it will also benefit from adding seltzer water. For example, you can create a mile-high stack of light and fluffy pancakes by replacing the tap water in the recipe with sparkling water in a 1:1 swap. For recipes calling for milk, you can also substitute the dairy for seltzer to get richer and airier flapjacks.

This substitution also works well for other breakfast favorites like crepes and waffles. As long as you use plain seltzer water, it won't alter the flavor but will still improve the texture. Crepes will be lighter and waffles crispier without adjusting how you follow the recipe. 

In fact, this trick was a popular practice during the Great Depression when eggs and oil were scarce. A cake could simply be made using boxed mix and carbonated water. The seltzer actually activates the commercial leaveners in the dry ingredients and allows the cake to bake fluffy and light. To try this method, you'll want to combine the cake mix with a 12-ounce can of seltzer and gently mix so you don't deflate all the bubbles. Then, evenly divide the batter into greased pans and bake the cake according to the manufacturer's directions. 

Seltzer also makes fried foods crispier

While there are few fried foods that don't make mouths water, some are crispier and lighter than others, and you can influence the texture with carbonated water in these dishes, too. It works great for battered and deep-fried recipes like Japanese tempura, whether it's made with fish or vegetables.

Carbonated water will keep the coating's texture light, not tough. The bubbles also lift the batter when added to hot oil, creating a lacy texture that allows it to crisp better and keep it from getting soggy. To make tempura at home, you'll need flour, an egg yolk, and seltzer water. Dip anything from prawns to vegetables into the batter, then deep fry until golden brown.

Similar to tempura, beer-battered fish can also be made with non-alcoholic seltzer. Although beer adds flavor to the batter, the carbonation in the seltzer will achieve the same textural results and may end up being less expensive.