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Caution: People with allergies or sensitivity to corn may be advised by their physician to avoid xanthan gum.
Also, xanthan gum generally costs almost 3 times as much as guar gum. It is not a raw product.
What is it?
Xanthan is a thickener derived from a type of bacteria that release a sticky gum. This gum is extracted and dried and has been used in a huge variety of pre-prepared foods. Recently, chefs have begun using it for its unique thickening properties and ability to mimic the ‘mouth-feel’ of traditionally high fat products. Xanthan gum is a corn-based, fermented product. It’s made by fermenting corn sugar with a microbial called “Xanthomonas campestris.” It’s used extensively in the food industry to make products thicker and it’s a common ingredient in gluten-free recipes.
What does it do?
Xanthan gum can be used to thicken or stabilize liquids, suspensions or emulsions. It is prized by chefs because liquids thickened with xanthan have almost the same viscosity (or thickness) whether hot or cold. Xanthan gum thickened liquids will flow when poured but will return to a weak gel when at rest. This means xanthan gum is ideal for making sauces, thickening gravy or mixing ‘molecular’ cocktails.
How does it work?
Xanthan gum is a hydrocolloid (link) which means it works by controlling the structure of water within foods and liquids. Its long, chain-like, molecules increase the thickness and viscosity of liquids.
How do I use it?
Xanthan gum should be used sparingly as a thickener – use too much and you will end up with an unpleasant gloop rather than a smooth flowing thick liquid. Xanthan dissolves better in warm liquids so if you wish to thicken a cold liquid, heat a little of it, add the xanthan gum to dissolve it then whisk in the remaining liquid. If you use too much xanthan gum in a recipe you may notice a heavy, gummy or even slimy texture in your baked goods- so measure carefully when using xanthan gum. Use a mechanical mixer for best results when mixing xanthan gum. This helps to maintain a constant speed that will prevent your recipe from getting chewy or clumpy. Mix 1/8 tsp xanthan gum for each cup of liquid in your recipe. First, dissolve the xanthan gum in a little bit of water (or other liquid if your recipe does not call for water) and then mix it in with the larger batch. Do not try to mix it by hand, as it will “gum” almost instantly and form clumps. It must be in motion from the moment it is incorporated into the liquid.