Banana bread, and all other quick breads, require a leavening agent that will allow your batter to grow into a shapely, beautiful and delicious baked good. Your recipe probably calls for one of the two most common chemical leavening agents: baking soda or baking powder. If you don't have either of these in your pantry, you may be wondering whether there's a substitute, such as yeast, that could save you a trip to the store. Unfortunately, while baking soda and baking powder are sometimes interchangeable, yeast will not work as a substitute for either.
Leavening Agents in Action
Using the correct kind of leavening agent in your banana bread is key to ensuring a light and airy, rather than heavy and dense, final product. A leavening agent is a chemical or biological substance that creates gas bubbles -- usually made of carbon dioxide -- in your banana bread batter during the baking process. The most common types of leavening agents include baking soda, baking powder and yeast.
Chemical Leavening Agents for Banana Bread
Your banana bread recipe most likely specifies a certain amount of baking soda and/or baking powder. These are the two most common types of chemical leavening agents and are often used in recipes for cookies, cakes and quick breads. To use baking soda and/or powder, add the amount your recipe specifies, usually whisking with flour prior to hydrating the mixture with liquid ingredients.
Yeast: Not for Quick Breads
Unless you're trying to make a sandwich loaf with banana flavor, your banana bread recipe won't call of the use of yeast as a leavening agent. Traditional banana bread is a quick bread, which means it doesn't require a rise prior to baking. Most quick breads are moist, sweet and commonly eaten for breakfast or dessert, rather than as a vehicle for a sandwich.
Yeast, a single-celled organism in the fungus family, is usually used as a leavening agent in risen breads. There are several different types of yeast, including wet, dry and rapid rise. Most yeasted recipes require combining the yeast with warm water for about 10 minutes prior to integrating other ingredients to ensure that it's active, foaming and bubbly.
If your recipe calls for baking soda but all you have is baking powder, you're in luck. Simply multiply the specified amount of baking soda by four. For example, if your recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. The swap does not, however, work in reverse. If your recipe calls for baking powder, not baking soda, don't try to make a substitution. If you've ever made this exchange in a batch of cookies, you probably had to throw them out due to the soapy flavor baking soda imparts when used improperly.