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Baking Basics: Xanthan Gum

Submitted by on December 31, 2010 – 11:18 amNo Comments
Baking Basics: Xanthan Gum

Many of us have recipes based on wheat-flour that we would like to convert to gluten-free.  In order to do that, we first need to choose an appropriate flour blend and then add enough xanthan gum to replace what the gluten would do in the recipe. 

Xanthan gum is produced when a strain of bacteria (called Xanthomonas Campestris) ferments carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or lactose – often commonly found in corn sugar. The resulting substance has thickening and binding properties that are often added to products such as salad dressings and ice cream.

In wheat bread, the gluten plays a vital role in providing elasticity to the dough, trapping air and allowing the bread to rise.  Consequently, gluten-free bread requires more xanthan gum per cup of flour.  Gluten-free cakes, on the other hand, require less xanthan gum because there are other ingredients, such as eggs, that also provide elasticity to trap air bubbles.  Gluten-free cookies require even less because they don’t need to rise as much as a cake or loaf of bread.

If you use too little xanthan gum, your baked goods can be too crumbly and will tend to fall apart.  If you use too much, your baked goods will condense and shrink after baking them.  Use the following table as a guideline for how much to use:

Application Xanthan Gum per Cup of Flour
Yeast bread, pizza crust, flour tortilla 3/4 – 1 teaspoon
Pie crust, tart crust 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Cake, muffins, biscuits, scones 1/2 teaspoon
Cookies, crackers 1/4 teaspoon
Pancakes, crepes, waffles None to 1/4 teaspoon

Additional Tips

When converting a recipe, start with the lower amount, and increase if necessary.  Also, consider the following:

  • When there are eggs in the recipe, you may need less xanthan gum
  • If the dough needs to be rolled out, you many need more xanthan gum
  • Allowing the dough to rest before baking almost always improves the rise and texture of the final product

I hope these guidelines give you the confidence to start converting your own favorite recipes!

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