What is xanthan gum and how does it help in gluten free baking?
I had never heard of it before Jamie started his gluten free diet: now it is a must-have in my kitchen cupboards.
What does Xanthan Gum do?
Xanthan gum is a completely natural vegetarian starch which is fantastic in gluten free baking because it gives food back the elasticity or stickiness that gluten usually provides and stops it from becoming too stretchy. It works very like gluten by binding ingredients during the baking process to give a conventional texture.
Xanthan gum is a useful ingredient for baking bread, cakes and biscuits and especially pastry. It is also good with with gluten-free mixes and goes a long way to improving the texture and life of your baking. It can be used in many home-cooking recipes and in bread makers.
What does xanthan gum look like?
It usually comes as a very fine powder in a small jar and can be found in the ‘free from’ section of the main grocery stores, or can be bought by mail order. (Be warned that if you ever catch the jar with your elbow so that it falls of the kitchen surface and smashes on the floor, you will have a fine film of xanthan gum over everything for months!!!) It is not horrendously expensive but is definitely a must-have for any gluten free kitchen.
What else is xanthan gum used for?
It is listed in ingredients for all sorts of everyday foods – salad creams, confectionery, sauces and is widely used because of its stretching, thickening, stick-ability characteristics. If not listed as xanthan gum, it will often come up as E415 but just to repeat – it is a completely natural, vegetarian substance.
Having said that, it is also used to thicken drilling fluids in the oil industry, and is often added to underwater concrete. So when you have finished making your gluten free pastry, you can line the garden pond!