A New Ingredient: Xanthan Gum!

5 Dec

I thought that on my first endeavor into The Modernist Cuisine at Home  I would keep it simple.  I decided to start out with a new ingredient instead of going whole hog and buying a sous vide machine, though that thought did cross my mind…just a bit.  Anyway, I will admit that it was a little difficult finding a recipe I could make without buying a new piece of equipment, but when all was said and done, I found three!  This week I’ll be reviewing Tomato Confit and Pistachio Pesto, which uses our new ingredient, Xanthan Gum, as an emulsifier, from the Basics chapter.  I’ll be using those recipes as ingredients in the third recipe, a very yummy sounding grilled cheese sandwhich called the Goat Cheese on Baguette with Tomato Confit and Basil.

So what is Xanthan Gum?  The Modernist Cuisine defines it as a “naturally occurring carbohydrate” which I thought was a little vague, so I did a little more research.  It is more specifically a polysaccharide, created from fermenting corn, wheat, or soy with a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris.  That’s the bacteria that turns your broccoli and cauliflower black and slimy.  The fermented bacteria is then dried and turned into a powdery substance.  Commercially, its commonly used as both a thickening agent and emulsifier in many everyday products including salad dressings, sauces, and even toothpaste!  In home cooking, it’s usually used in gluten free baking.  It helps to give the dough that naturally sticky feel.

The book suggests that you can buy Xanthan Gum at your grocery store and states that it should cost around $15 for 450 g.  That may be true for some people, but not for me.  I found it, not at my normal grocery store but at a higher end store, and for twice the price!  $15 for 226 g.  Don’t fret.  It’s not the end of the world!  The great thing about this ingredient is how little of it you have to use, usually no more than 0.2% of the weight of the dish.  However, I will say, when I start running low I will be buying my Xanthan Gum online.  It’s way cheaper there!  What can I say?  I’m frugal!

So that’s Xanthan Gum in a nutshell.  It’s a very cool, very modern ingredient, and I’m very glad to add it to my pantry.

Until next time…


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