By Regina Petruzziello Mason
What are these two interestingly named ingredients and why do you need them in gluten-free baking?
Let’s start with xanthan gum; it is made from a type of bacteria (Xanthomonas campestris). It also is seen as the black rot that attacks various vegetables. In a controlled environment, it is introduced to, most often, corn sugar. This solution is kept at 30 degrees for several days until fermentation has taken place. The solution is then heated to stop the fermentation process. It is dried, ground and sieved into the fine powder that we purchase at the store. Xanthan gum is used as a stabilizer and also to thicken products that have high moisture content such as salad dressings. People with corn and soy allergies may need to avoid this product.
Guar gum is extracted from the guar seed (Cyanosis tetragonoloba), which comes primarily from India and Pakistan. It has excellent binding properties as well as being a plasticizer and emulsifier. Guar gum is also a water soluble fiber. It has been used for weight management and it can also have a laxative effect when taken in large quantities.
Xanthan and guar gum are both considered natural substances. Both gums dissolve in water and seem to create a more elastic consistency in gluten-free bread recipes. This helps trap the gases that are produced by the yeast, which in turn makes bread rise. When mixing these ingredients together it is best to blend all the dry ingredients first then add the liquid. The batter should be mixed well to ensure complete hydration of the gums. Most of the grains, legumes and starches used in gluten-free baking require a great deal of moisture. So, when adding the gums to these blends, you may find that your recipes require additional liquids. Otherwise, the end result will be dry. The gums are interchangeable in recipes and, as a general rule of thumb; ½ tsp is used per cup of gluten-free flour blend ( I prefer guar gum as it is a plant based gum).
All-Purpose Flour Blend
Yield: 4 cups
1 cup brown rice flour
1¼ cup white rice flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons xanthan gum or guar gum
About Regina Petruzziello Mason
Regina is the President and founder of Virago Baking Company, located in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia.
Regina is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has been baking for more than 35 years. Some of her experience includes working for Yann Machard of Symphony Pastries located in New Jersey. She has also owned and operated several bakery businesses in Napa, CA.
Regina has always been an artisan style pastry chef, crafting all her baked goods from natural and organic ingredients. In 2007 Regina decided once again that it was time to operate her own bakery; but this time set out to do something different and more challenging. Originally, Virago was to be just an all natural bakery with some vegan desserts but, soon after opening, people continually asked for gluten-free baked goods and the numbers were too big to ignore. She was very familiar with celiac disease as her mother in-law had been diagnosed several years prior. Armed with her knowledge of ingredients and vast recipe file, Regina quickly began converting her recipes into gluten-free recipes. She continues to add more products to Virago’s gluten-free menu, including many that are vegan and gluten-free. The newest line of products, VIP (Virago Inspired Pleasures) cupcakes, are extra special cupcakes that are filled with (and some are dipped in) ganache. Many are vegan too.
Regina enjoys creating new recipes and is always willing to help those with special needs. After all, everyone should be able to have a birthday cake!