Friday, August 28, 2015

Why Xanthan Gum?

Brian’s Baking Tips!
      One of the main things I hear when people try my gluten-free desserts for the first time is, “This tastes just like the real thing!”  They're not just talking about the flavor, but also about the texture and consistency.

Why would my desserts really differ that much from other bakers, you may ask?  Well, for starters, the different alternative flours that can be used, such as rice, almond, coconut, and millet can all make a big difference, but that is for another article.

Today we’re here to discuss xanthan gum and why I use it in my baking…

       So what is xanthan gum?  It is a thickening and stabilizing agent that can be sourced from corn, soy, wheat, and even dairy. Most commonly you’ll find that the majority of companies source from either corn or soy.
     Let’s dig a little deeper to see how we get xanthan gum.  It is named for the bacteria, xanthomonas campestris.  Okay, that doesn't tell us anything, so what is xanthan gum really made of?  It is a polysaccharide, which is the scientifical way of saying 'a string of multiple sugars.'  To actually create xanthan gum, the bacteria is allowed to ferment and grow on a sugar medium.  The resulting gel is then dried and ground to create the powder substance we know as xanthan gum.

SO why do we even want to use this in our gluten-free baking?  Because xanthan gum plays the important role of imitating gluten!  As you probably know, gluten is what makes dough, well...doughy!  Gluten gives elasticity to the dough which enables cakes and other baked goods to hold onto the gas bubbles that form inside them while baking, which is what causes them to turn into the classic 1970’s superheroes, The Wonder Twins.  “Shape of a cake!”  “Form of a cookie!”  (Sorry, I couldn't help myself...that was my nerd-out moment for this article.)
     So, in a nutshell, xanthan gum replicates the missing gluten in gluten-free baking.  That is why I personally choose to use a small amount of xanthan gum in most of my baking to ensure that my cakes, cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats have as similar a texture as possible to those delicious, classic treats we have all come to know and love!

Cheat Sheet

Cookies…. 1/4 tsp per cup of Flour

Cakes……… 1/2 tsp per cup of Flour

Muffins….. 3/4 tsp per cup of Flour

Breads……. 1 tsp per cup of Flour