That was the first thing I said when I was starting to bake gluten free for the first time. Since then, I’ve come across many people talking about Xanthan Gum and I’ve seen it displayed on the shelves alongside other gluten free products in the supermarket. For starters I didn’t even know how to pronounce it – “what is ‘ex-an-than’ gum?” [FYI – its pronounced 'zan-than gum' – duh!] I’m also 99.9% sure I’ve probably spelt it wrong in my recipes too!
Without knowing what it really is, it’s forgiveable to think that xanthan gum would come in a form of a gum like substance. I assumed I’d be working with something that resembled chewing gum and I had visions of me getting urges to chuck it around the kitchen like a bouncy ball, so you can imagine my surprise [and slight dismay] when I purchased it and noticed it looks like finely ground white flour!
So after delving on the ye old internet, I discovered that it was actually an important feature in gluten free and dairy free cooking and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what it was! Yet despite its rather alien sounding name, xanthan gum is actually all natural baby!
Now for the science bit: xanthan gum is derived from fermented corn based products and can be typically found in our common food staples such as ice creams [to stop crystals forming whilst it's freezing] and salad dressing etc but you would never know! It also replaces the ‘stretchiness’ that gluten gives to products, which is why when we’re baking without it, our nicely baked gluten free goodies can crumble with the slightest touch! It’s also great for thickening liquid based food, so as you can see already, it’s a pretty impressive powder!
“So how do you use this unusual sounding powder?” I hear you ask.
Before you mix xanthan gum to your ingredients, double check that the flour you’re using does not already contain it [I know Dove's gluten free flour contains it]. If your flour doesn’t, don’t panic, I tend to add a teaspoon [if making cake or a pizza base] of xanthan gum alongside my dry ingredients and mix it all together before adding any liquids. I tend to list how much xanthan gum to use in my recipes, so it’s all right if you’re having a slight panic now about remembering how much to add etc.
How do you use Xanthan gum?!