Sunday, June 24, 2012

Xanthan Gum

As some of my friends have problems with gluten and such, I was advised that it might be a problem that I was dealing with myself. After being tested twice, I was told no I do not have a gluten intolerance. However in the mean time, I have discovered many new to me flours and new to me ways of cooking and baking which I've found really enjoyable. I have learned to replace eggs in my meals because I'm allergic to eggs, and I have learned to cook gluten free if needed.

Along the way, I was introduced to Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum: which is often used to replace gluten. It looks like an off white powder. Much like almond flour, but finer. In reality, it a polysaccharide, derived from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris, as Wikipedia tells us.  

Xanthan Gum is often used to thicken things, or to help hold things together. I have used it to create a gel like texture in home made shampoo/body wash, and in various foods. The stickiness found in bread and other baked goods if not coming from wheat gluten, needs to come from somewhere and some people use eggs to help things stick together better, but I use either Guar Gum (Which I ran out of and haven't found easily accessible at a nearby store since) or Xantham Gum, or occasionally some apple sauce. I bought a small bag of Xanthan Gum a few years ago, and it is still working for me because I use such small amounts of it.

When looking for egg replacements I was usually told to use banana which I am allergic to, or store bought replacers which either have some egg whites in it or have white potato. Neither of which is particularly good for my body. So I began experimentation of my own. People told me to try replacing eggs with apple sauce. And in some instances this worked great, but in some instances, apple sauce added too much liquid and not enough stickiness. Knowing that Xanthan Gum adds the stickiness that gluten provides, I thought perhaps a mixture of apple sauce and Xanthan Gum might be a good egg replacer. It turns out, it works. I tried out various ways of mixing it into recipes and found that although you can put it directly into water and shake or blend to get a gel much like egg whites, it tends to clump. Same when mixed with apple sauce or pear sauce.

Instead, just add Xanthan Gum to the dry ingredients of the recipe and mix well before adding liquids, then add about 6 tablespoons of water per teaspoon of Xanthan Gum. It's more of an art than a science for me, so I've done a lot of trial and error. Depending on the size of the recipe, what is missing from the recipe (gluten, eggs, etc.) and what else is already in the recipe, I add different amounts. It has taken a lot of trial and error, but it almost always works for me these days when added in small amounts.

So Xantham Gum, is it worth the money? Well I'd say buy as small amount as possible if you're going to try it, and then don't be afraid to experiment. Let me know how it goes!

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