Sometimes it gets interesting at the farmers market, like the day someone was selling warm delicious pancakes.
I had to tweet about it.
The Twitter and Facebook consensuses* were that they were, in fact, pulling my leg, and when I emailed my husband, he thought so too. That is, until curiosity got the better of him and he found that yes, yes there is a leavening made of reindeer horn:
Salt of hartshorn (Ammonium Carbonate)
Hartshorn is one of the oldest of "chemical" leavens. It was actually in use for many centuries before the predecessor of modern baking powder was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The original hartshorn, as its name implies, was ground from deer antler and used primarily in Scandinavian countries. Today it is almost unknown although there is a chemical version of the original, better known as "baker's ammonia," available from King Arthur Flour.
A dough that contains hartshorn produces a strong smell of ammonia when it's in the oven, but the ammonia dissipates completely during the cooking process leaving no aftertaste or odor. Its unique action makes extremely crisp cookies and crackers.
But here's the really pressing question, courtesy of a comment on Facebook:
I'd love to know the backstory of how the baking properties of ground up deer antlers were discovered. What happens if I stew porcupine claws? Are discarded nail clippings the secret to a nice souffle? Hard tellin' not knowin'!
Would you all like to chime in and hypothesize as to just how someone found that ground reindeer antler would work as leavening?
* Doesn't that look wrong? I think it should be "consensi".