Xanthan Gum 1kg
Xanthan Gum 1kg
What is it?
As the demand for gluten-free products and recipes increases, it seems that xanthan gum is suddenly everywhere.
"It's a great way to add stretch to your dough and baked goods in gluten free baking," says Helen Tzouganatos, "It mimics the properties of gluten due to its ‘gummy’ texture, hence the name."
Of course, xanthan gum is not a new thing at all. It was first discovered in the 1950s (which might go a long way in explaining its futuristic name), and was introduced to the food scene in the 1970s.
How is xanthan gum produced?
While its name suggests that xanthan gum is some kind of futuristic food source, it's actually entirely natural. It's a hydrocolloid (a substance that forms a gel in water) polysaccharide - or complex carbohydrate - which is fermented from the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris.
This happens in the presence of a sucrose and glucose (sugar) growth medium. Which sounds very science boffin, but is really an organic process that just happens to have very scientific names.
In fact, X. campestris may be hard at work in your garden right now... something you might want to check on. It's the bacterial species that is responsible for the insidious black rot in crucifers and brassicas like cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli. It basically turns growing veggies to black, rotten mush. Which isn't exactly the most appealing xanthan gum fact, but full disclosure, right?
What can you use it for?
Rest assured that by the time X. campestris results in xanthan gum, it's been well and truly killed by heat. Not to mention that the gum is purified before being dried, ground to a powder then added to everything from salad dressing to ice cream, toothpaste, paint, cosmetics and wallpaper glue.
The reason xanthan gum is such a jack-of-all-trades lies with its ability to stabilise and thicken other ingredients while still allowing them to flow freely. Recently it's being used extensively in this capacity to mimic the role of gluten in gluten-free recipes.
Most commercial gluten-free breads, cakes, ice cream, salad dressings, yoghurts and sauces will likely contain E415 as an ingredient. It essentially provides the 'glue' that's often missing when gluten is removed.
Xanthan gum to the rescue
As well as being able to stabilise, emulsify and go undercover as gluten, xanthan gum may contribute some noteworthy health benefits.
There's also emerging evidence that suggests that consuming the versatile gum may help with weight loss and cholesterol reduction. Very promising, notes that there are still plenty of gaps in the research.
"These effects may be attributed to it being a soluble fibre rather than it having a unique biological property," he cautions.
Powder for the pantry
You can also buy xanthan gum in powdered form for adding to recipes at home. It can be substituted when a thickening agent that contains gluten is listed: namely flour and cornflour. It can also be added to boost gluten-free flours like coconut, buckwheat and rice flours. It will add extra elasticity and bulk to all of these flours, helping them mimic the texture of wheat flours.
"It's quite strong," cautions Tzouganatos. "A little goes a long way, so be conservative when working with it. I only add half a teaspoon to my buckwheat and chia bread to help it pop."
A small pinch of xanthan gum will also add lightness to foams, froths and meringues, and prevent homemade mayonnaise and sauces from separating. Yup, all those amazing looking foams that top chefs seemingly conjure out of thin air are most likely being conjured by xanthan gum.
Is xanthan gum safe?
Xanthan gum is approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) as safe to consume and called xanthan gum or E415 on product ingredient lists.