Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of sources such as corn, wheat, or soy. The sugars in these products are fermented resulting in a moist paste. This is then dried, and ground into a fine powder. The powder when mixed with a liquid becomes viscous and almost gel-like.
Nutritionally, xanthan gum is a carbohydrate with 7 grams of fiber per tablespoon. As far as I can tell there are no health issues unless you are allergic to corn, wheat or soy, in which you should avoid xanthan and use an alternative like guar gum or locust bean gum. The only other issue I have found is for some people it may cause bloating after eating.
The reason I am introducing you to this product is if you or a loved one can not eat gluten you should become familiar with xanthan. Xanthan gum helps give the dough a sticky consistency if you are baking with gluten free flour.
Only a small amount of xanthan gum is necessary to achieve the desired result, usually less than 0.5% of the food product weight. Also when mixed with guar gum or locust bean gum, the viscosity is more than when either one is used alone, so less of each can be used.
Why do we use xanthan gum in gluten-free baking?
In gluten-free baking, we rely on xanthan gum to provide elasticity and stickiness in our doughs and batters. Since we don’t have gluten present, we need something that acts as the binding agent for the flour. It also helps hold onto some moisture, and helps give the baked good some structure. Without the structure the baked good will just crumble in your hands.
How to use xanthan gum in gluten-free baking
When using xanthan gum in gluten-free baking, a little goes a long way.
Before you start a recipe, or consider adding xanthan gum, your first step is to check the ingredients on the side of your bag of gluten-free flour. If the mix already contains xanthan gum, you likely won’t need to add any more, as those flours/mixes have been specifically formulated to take that into account. Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour does not have xanthan added which I like because you have the ability to add what you feel is needed. (available thru the Co-Op)
If your flour mixture doesn’t contain xanthan gum, then you’ll most likely want to add some to your recipe, especially if you’re making something like bread or pizza, these items use yeast and the development of gluten for leavening.
There are no hard set rules on the amount but this is what Bob's Red Mill website offers as guidelines:
1/4 tsp. for Cookies
1/2 tsp. for cakes
3/4 tsp. Muffins and Quick Breads
2 tsp. for Bread or Pizza Crust
Xanthan gum and allergies
You can use guar gum 1:1 in most recipes.
In general, you should never need more than 1 tablespoon of xanthan gum for a gluten-free recipe. And actually, adding too much xanthan gum can compromise the texture of your baked goods, making them too sticky and gummy. If you’ve ever had a recipe that simply won’t bake through no matter what you try, we recommend checking the amount of xanthan gum you’re using – that could potentially be the problem.
Baking with gluten free flour is indeed different and does require some experimentation. I hope this will shed some light on how to make that perfect baked item for your loved one even if they have gluten issues.
Alyssa Rimmer King Arthur Foods, August 2015