Wednesday, August 12, 2009
How to Use Xanthan Gum
Fellow Diner, Linda, asked me to do a post on using xanthan gum. Great idea. There are a few tricks of the trade so to speak, as this substance is quite a bit different when used as a low carb thickener. Forget everything you knew about thickening with flour or cornstarch. Xanthan gum is a whole new game. There are several different ways I use it. Not claiming to be an expert here, so if you have any more pointers, feel free to leave a comment.
First, lots of gluten free bakers use xanthan gum in recipes using alternative flours. Since we are low carbing, I don't use many recipes using those ingredients. I do use a dash of xanthan gum when I make Cleochatra's Oopsie rolls. Xanthan gum is said to help stiffen the fragile batter and help to keep it from breaking down before it is baked. By the way, the tiny measuring spoon in the photo is a dash--an eighth of a teaspoon. I just toss in the xanthan gum with the egg yolk mixture and beat it well with my hand mixer. You can find the recipe here.
Speaking of beating well, that is one secret to successfully using xanthan gum. It really needs some help getting mixed into liquids. It clumps like crazy upon impact with moisture. Way faster than my little wrist can stir. I like to use an immersion blender when possible. I always add a dash of xanthan to help thicken my protein shakes. It creates that marvelous mouth feel of a thick, creamy shake. The blender takes care of the clumping problem there, no problem. Using a bullet blender or regular blender will do the trick too for any sauce or soup. BUT...
What about stir fry sauces and gravies that are hot, and not practical to put in the blender? I like to thicken sauces right in the pan without blending my food to mush. There is a trick. Some say to sprinkle the xanthan gum on lightly with a salt shaker. I still found little clumps when I tried that. But I did find a great little kitchen tool that is foolproof. It is my tea strainer/infuser. Mine is an individual "spoon" style that uses a fine mesh to keep tea leaves out of the hot water. I seldom use it for that, though because it tends to float in the cup. Instead, I simply add the desired amount of xanthan gum into the infuser and snap the lid tightly closed. Then, just shake the xanthan powder over the liquid to be thickened. All you have to do is stir gently with one hand while shaking or "sifting" the infuser. The xanthan gum falls in such a fine powder that it doesn't clump at all. It also makes it very easy to adjust the amount you need, since you can add more or less as it thickens in the pan. If any is left over in the infuser, I can just dump it back in the jar.
I looked online to see if they still made my tea strainer, but I couldn't find anything just like it. My advice would be to check out the finest strainers or sieves you can find. Most tea balls seem to have holes that are just too large. This strainer I found online might work, even though it wouldn't close on top like mine. Then again, maybe you could find a shaker of some sort with abnormally small holes. I promise I have a pepper shaker that hardly lets anything escape!
I will look forward to reading what any other Diners have found works for them.