The use of xanthan gum explained by internationally renowned gluten-free expert, Carol Fenster, Ph.D. She is the author of several gluten-free cookbooks and allergy friendly lifestyle books. She will contribute an article each month to this blog. Below she has provided not only gluten-free newbies with some great information, but for gluten-free veterans, as well! Thank you so much, Carol for explaining the use of xanthan gum!
What is Xanthan Gum and Why Should I Use It?
By Carol Fenster, Ph.D.
One of the most frequent questions I hear from newly-diagnosed people is “what is xanthan gum?”
Definition of Xanthan Gum
The technical explanation is that xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, made from a pure culture fermentation of any carbohydrate (most likely corn) with the plant bacteria Xanthomonas Campestris. The mixture is then purified, yielding a polysaccharide gum.
Why Is Xanthan Gum Important?
Xanthan gum is the glue that holds our baked goods together by performing a function similar to gluten.
Picture millions of tiny cells or balloons in your batter or dough. As the leavening (baking powder, baking soda, or yeast) starts expanding, the cells created by xanthan gum provide little containers to hold the carbon dioxide released by the leavening agent. These cells provide a structure to hold the carbon dioxide and help your baked goods rise, instead of falling flat as a pancake.
The xanthan gum also acts an emulsifier by helping the water and oil stay together once they’re blended. That’s why we say it “stabilizes” the baked item. Knowing all this, you can see why xanthan gum as an “investment” in successful, gluten-free baking.
If Xanthan Gum Isn’t Right for You
In case you’re wondering…manufacturers assure us that there is very little, if any, corn left over. And, very little yeast or mold from the fermentation, either. So, this product is not likely to be a problem for those sensitive to corn or yeast. But, if it bothers you in any way—or you simply don’t want to use it—then don’t use it.
Try using another member of the gum family––guar gum, which is a legume called Cyanmopsis tetragonoloba. Guar gum performs similarly to xanthan gum in baking, but I use 50% more guar gum to achieve the desired result. In other words, if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, use 1 1/2 teaspoons guar gum.
How Much Do I Use?
Some people think if “a little is good, then a lot is better.” Not so! If you use too much xanthan gum, baked goods turn rubbery and salad dressings resemble glue. After thousands of baking experiences, I’ve come to really appreciate xanthan gum and, while I tend to use a bit more now than I did in the past, I don’t overdo it. I think every baked item (yes, even cookies––nobody likes crumbly cookies!) requires some xanthan gum for optimum texture.
How Much Xanthan Gum?
|Where?||How Much?||Tips for Success|
|Salad Dressings||1/8-1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid||Mix with dry ingredients first (e.g.; salt, pepper, sugar), then add liquids. Or, whisk into oil until smooth and then add remaining ingredients.|
|Cookies||1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour||Especially important when honey is the sweetener because honey makes a softer cookie.|
|Cakes||1/2 teaspoon per cup of flour|
|Muffins, Quick Breads||3/4 teaspoon per cup of flour|
|Bread||1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup of flour|
|Pizza||2 teaspoons per cup of flour|
|Thickener for Sauces||1 teaspoon in place of each table-spoon of original thickener (e.g., wheat flour or cornstarch).||Mix with dry ingredients first (e.g., salt, spices) then add liquids. Or, whisk into oil until smooth and then add remaining ingredients.|
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