More Culinary Mystery-Solving: Using Agar-Agar and Guar Gum

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It seems that our post about xantham gum caused some minor controversy, so I would like to propose two more options for all of you gluten-free bakers and dessert-makers out there.  Agar-agar and Guar gum supply many of the inherent qualities missing from gluten-free baking: they provide a delicious, chewy texture with no added flavor.  What are these mysterious little culinary helpers, you ask?

Agar-agar is a gelatinous substance made from red algae.  Its consistency and high fiber content (80%) have made it popular in both culinary and scientific circles (it’s used in biomedical labs as a base for growing cultures).  Although its use has been primarily limited to Japan and the Philippines, agar-agar has recently found a devoted following as a gelatin-substitute in gluten-free cooking and baking all over the world.  Sold as powder, flakes, and sheets, agar-agar stabilizes various foods and adds resiliency and texture to bread, pizza crusts, and custards.  A little further research revealed that one of my favorite Russian chocolate desserts, Ptich’ye Moloko, gets its delicious milky centers from agar-agar.

Guar guam, a cream-colored powder, comes from the Guar bean.  Like xantham gum, Guar gum adds elasticity to gluten-free baked goods.  The molecules bind well to water, forming a high-fiber,  gel-like substance.  Although most bakers prefer xantham gum for its easier digestion, Guar gum may be an adequate substitute for those individuals who may experience the side effects of xantham gum.  Be forewarned, however: because of its propensity to expand with water, Guar gum can cause digestive issues in large quantities.

Baked goods and desserts are omnipresent during the holiday season, and these little culinary additions could vastly improve the texture of gluten-free breads, cookies, and cakes.  Has anybody ever tried cooking with either of them, and if so, what have your results been?

8 thoughts on “More Culinary Mystery-Solving: Using Agar-Agar and Guar Gum”

  1. i am a HUGE fan of agar agar- I use it in all my ‘short’ cooking (like cookies) and it works very well… here’s areciep for Gluten Free Gingerbread Cookies using it.

    I have one other binding agent I’d love to suggest- unflavoured gelatin. (just make sure its from a gluten free facility like MCCormick’s). Gelatin allows your products to rise nicely.
    I use it in my Gluten Free Chocolate Cake:
    and in my Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cookies :

    Great stuff… Thanks so much for this post you guys- super timing and and great writing :) If you ever want some ideas on other egg and binding agent replacements- feel free to give me a shout, I did a series on replacing ingredients for dairy, eggs, sugar, fats and the gluten free flours.
    thanks again 😀

  2. I’ve never used Agar-Agar, but I often use Guar Gum alone or in combination with Xanthan Gum. It’s a staple in my GFree pantry!

  3. I have read that you can substitute unflavored gelatin (like Knox) for xanthan gum with good results. I haven’t tried it since I have no issues with corn derived products but it’s worth a try.

  4. I use unflavored gelatin in baking. I had issues with all the “gums.” My everyday sorghum millet bread is a little more crumbly than I would like, but it toasts up nicely in my little toaster oven.

    I also use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs for gf baking. They are a better binder. The egg whites are more viscose. Hard to find, though. So my mom decided to raise some ducks. She has four Khaki Campbells, the champion layers among ducks. The ducks are very entertaining for my mom, as well. I’d have raised ducks myself, but had already taken on 50 chickens.

  5. I liked the way my cakes came out with zanthan gum, but a famiily member had an allergic reaction. I have now baked several cakes using guar gum. I am not happy. everyone loved the cakes, but I tho’t they were too crumbly. I’ve read that the guar gum expands in liquid. would it help to add more fluid? I need to fix this before the holidays

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