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Xanthan gum, or just xanthan, is one of the easiest ingredients to work with. It is used extensively to thicken liquids; a great ingredient used to turn thin liquids into savory sauces. It quickly hydrates or disperses at any temperature, making it one of the few ingredients you can add slowly and instantly see the result. Also, xanthan gum does not lose its properties when microwaved.
Xanthan gum has a very neutral flavor so it mixes well with foods without masking their flavor. It provides an improved mouth feel to preparations, slightly thickening a liquid similar to how traditionally reducing a liquid does.
When used as a thickener in low dosages, xanthan gum produces a weak gel with high viscosity. This gel will also be thixotropic or shear thinning with a high pourability. This means that when the gel is at rest it maintains its shape but when stirred or mixed it begins to flow again as a liquid and then resets once the agitation stops.
Xanthan gum is gluten free and is often used as a substitute in baking and thickening. It also helps baked goods to retain more moisture than they would have otherwise. When mixed into batters or tempura xanthan gum adds good cling, allowing the batter to stick more easily to the food.
Xanthan gum is produced through the fermentation of glucose with a bacteria found in cabbage, known as Xanthomonas campesteris.
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As a thickening agent, the amount of xanthan gum you will use depends on how thick you want the liquid to be. In general, you will use a 0.2% weight ratio for light thickening, 0.7% for a thicker sauce, and up to 1.5% for a very thick sauce. Be warned though, adding too much xanthan gum can result in a texture and mouthfeel resembling mucus.
To make a xanthan gum foam a ratio between 0.2% and 0.8% is typically used. The more xanthan gum you use the larger the bubbles that can occur and the denser the foam will be.
For bubbles, resembling soap bubbles, a typical ratio is 0.1% to 0.4% xanthan gum and 0.2% to 2.0% Versawhip or egg white powder.
When making an emulsion, the more xanthan gum you add, the stronger the emulsion will be. However, it will also thicken the emulsion, which may or may not be desirable. To start binding an emulsion a ratio of around 0.1% can be used. If you want to also thicken the emulsion you can add up to around 0.8% of xanthan gum.
Xanthan gum is very easy to disperse and hydrate.
Xanthan gum is easily dispersed in liquids at any temperature. It is typically mixed by using a whisk, though an immersion or standing blender works best. You can also improve the dispersion of xanthan gum by first mixing it with sugar, then adding it to the liquid. This is similar to making a slurry out of flour and cold water before adding it to gravy to prevent clumping. The sugar will prevent the xanthan gum from hydrating until it has been dispersed enough in the liquid for the sugar percent to go down.
Xanthan gum will pretty much hydrate in liquid of any temperature. However, if the liquid is very sugary then it can have trouble hydrating. Typically, if the sugar is less than 55% to 60% it will work fine.
One of the primary uses of xanthan gum is to thicken liquids. This can range from very minor thickening to creating very thick syrups depending on the other ingredients and the amount of xanthan gum used.
Another benefit of thickening with xanthan gum is that it greatly increases particle suspension. This means if you have herbs, spices, or other items in the liquid then the addition of xanthan gum will help keep them in suspension instead of settling to the bottom or rising to the top.
To thicken a liquid with xanthan gum you just combine the xanthan gum with the liquid you want to thicken by whisking or blending. The liquid will thicken very quickly.
For thicker sauces that have been sitting you can stir or whisk them briefly to make them flow better. Once they have been plated they will regain their previous viscosity as long as they haven't been heated to too high of a temperature.
Most thickened liquids will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.
The amount of xanthan gum you will use depends on how much you would like to thicken the liquid. In general, you will use a 0.2% weight ratio for light thickening, 0.7% for a thicker sauce, and up to 1.5% for a very thick sauce.
Since xanthan gum thickens liquids they can easily trap air bubbles and stabilize foams.
The first step to make an xanthan gum foam from a liquid is to mix in the xanthan gum using an immersion or standing blender. Once it's evenly dispersed you need to introduce air into the liquid. This can be done through whipping, blending, or with the use of a whipping siphon. Typically a whipping siphon is the most efficient way to create a foam.
Another interesting way to create an xanthan gum foam is through the use of an aquarium bubbler. It will create large, unevenly sized bubbles, resembling soap bubbles, which can add a whimsical quality to many dishes. For this preparation it is typically combined with Versawhip.
Because xanthan gum thickens liquids it also helps create more stable emulsions. This can be used to hold traditional vinaigrettes together, create new vinaigrettes using purees, or to use much less oil than you usually would.
Strengthening an emulsion with xanthan gum is very easy. First create the emulsion like you usually would. Then blend in a pinch of xanthan gum. It will thicken the liquid slightly and help the emulsion hold for a much longer time. For an even stronger emulsion you can add some soy lecithin at a ratio of 0.3 to 0.5%.