If you've tried your hand at gluten free baking, then you've likely heard of xanthan gum before. A key ingredient when making gluten free foods, xanthan gum can help you successfully create delicious gluten free baked goods. So, how do you get started? Continue reading as we discuss how to bake with xanthan gum. From cookies to bread, baking gluten free treats just got a whole lot easier.
What Is Xanthan Gum?
Wondering what xanthan gum is? You're not alone. Even bakers who have used xanthan gum in multiple recipes likely don't know what this ingredient is made of. But learning more about it and what xanthan gum does can help you understand how to use it in your recipes better, so let's get started.
Xanthan gum, pronounced "zan-than" is a common food additive that can be used as a thickener and a binding agent. Xanthan gum can be found in sauces, salad dressing, ice cream and even toothpaste. These products work to help prevent oil separation and provide a smoother texture in your mouth. In addition, its binding abilities make it a popular ingredient in gluten free baked goods like muffins, cakes and cookies.
Why Is Xanthan Gum Used in Gluten Free Baking?
Aside from all its other uses, xanthan gum is most popularly used to create gluten free baked goods with a texture similar to traditional ones. When used in baking, xanthan gum has two essential roles:
- Like gluten, xanthan gum helps bind things together, creating baked goods with a better structure.
- Xanthan gum locks in moisture so that baked goods won't dry out quickly.
Without gluten, many recipes (especially flour-based ones) have trouble holding their ingredients together. This results in dry, crumbly goods that don't hold their shape well. Using xanthan gum helps provide some of the stickiness that gluten free goods lack, replacing some elasticity. Xanthan gum mimics some of gluten’s most essential properties by sticking to flour and its moisture. This helps create moist goods that hold their shape after being baked.
How to Use Xanthan Gum In Gluten Free Baking
Wondering how to use xanthan gum in your recipes? Before beginning the baking process, take a moment to review your gluten free recipe and check the ingredients on the bag of gluten free flour you're using. If you're using a nut-based flour like almond flour, then it's likely that the only ingredient will be almonds. However, if you choose to use a pre-made gluten free flour blend, the mix may already contain xanthan gum, and you likely won't need to add more.
Gluten free flour mixes like our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour use high-quality ingredients like sweet rice and brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, tapioca flour and xanthan gum so that you can substitute it in recipes at a 1-to-1 ratio. Flours like this work exceptionally well in recipes that typically use traditional all-purpose flour.
If the gluten free flour you are using doesn't contain xanthan gum, then you'll want to include it in your list of recipe ingredients. Even more so if you're making cake, muffins, bread and pizza crust, as these recipes typically rely on the structure gluten provides.
How Much Xanthan Gum Should You Use in Recipes?
When using xanthan gum, it's important to remember that a little goes a long way. If you choose to add xanthan gum to a recipe that didn't initially call for it, we recommend adding about ¼ teaspoon for each cup of flour used. However, this is just an estimate. We suggest testing the recipe out and adjusting as needed. If not enough xanthan gum is used, your baked goods will be crumbly and lack moisture. If too much is used, the dough/batter will become overly sticky, making it hard to mix and spread.
Cleaning up Xanthan Gum
When baking with powdery dry ingredients like xanthan gum, cleaning up spills can be a bit tricky. If you happen to spill a bit of xanthan gum on your counter or floor, instead of adding water to it, which will make it extremely slippery, use a towel or broom to wipe away as much of the xanthan gum powder as you can.
Xanthan Gum Sensitivity
For many, xanthan gum is a valued ingredient in gluten free baking. For others, it can cause a bit of digestive upset. If you find that your stomach hurts after eating xanthan gum, it's possible that you've used too much or that you have a sensitivity to it. Some of the most common sensitivities to xanthan gum include stomach bloating, an upset stomach and overall GI discomfort. If you notice that you have a sensitivity to xanthan gum, don't worry just yet. There are several alternatives that you can use to keep your gluten free goods together.
What to Do if You Can't Use Xanthan Gum?
Whether xanthan gum causes stomach discomfort or you simply don't have any on hand, you'll need an alternative to help replace glutens binding properties. Here are the most popular alternatives to xanthan gum.
Chia and Flaxseed Xanthan Gum Substitution
Chia and flaxseeds are excellent alternatives to xanthan gum and work similarly. When hydrated, these seeds produce a gel-like substance that mimics the properties of xanthan gum. To create this substitute, the recipe you'll be making is essentially a chia seed or flaxseed egg. When added to baked goods, it helps bind together the ingredients, adding structure and elasticity to the recipe. That being said, because you'll have to hydrate the seeds to create the egg, it will increase the cooking time. Additionally, using chia seed/flaxseed as a substitute for xanthan gum may produce a slightly nuttier and grittier tasting baked good.
When substituting chia or flax for xanthan gum, we recommend using 1 teaspoon of ground chia or flax for every one teaspoon of xanthan gum. However, instead of adding the chia or flax straight to the mixture, mix it with two teaspoons of water and set it aside for 5-10 minutes until it creates a thick, gel-like consistency, then continue mixing it into your recipe.
Skipping the Xanthan Gum
If you don't have xanthan gum on hand, then you may be wondering what would happen if you just skipped that part of the recipe. While the results will vary per recipe, most recipes that call for xanthan gum require it to maintain structure and rise. However, some recipes can be made successfully without xanthan gum, with an adequate amount of liquid, butter, eggs and oil, even if the recipe itself calls for it. The only difference you may notice is that they're a little more dry than usual.
If this is your first time baking a specific recipe, or gluten free goods in general, we recommend sticking to the formula and ensuring that you have xanthan on hand. If you can't seem to find any and are determined to make a recipe without it, be sure to check the suggested substitutes or try the chia/flax seed one above.
Where to Purchase Xanthan Gum
Xanthan gum can be found in most supermarkets and health food stores. Commonly placed in the gluten free section, some stores also place it next to baking items like baking soda, cornstarch and baking powder. Additionally, xanthan gum can be purchased online and shipped to you in time for your next recipe.
Overall, xanthan gum is a versatile ingredient that can make everything from ice creams and smoothies to muffins and cakes. It holds even the driest of flours together and ensures that your baked good maintains its moisture and structure throughout the baking process. For individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, xanthan gum can make gluten free cooking much more straightforward and help recreate your favorite treats sans grains. From everyone at Bob's Red Mill, we wish you the best on your gluten free baking journey.
Do you have experience baking with xanthan gum? We'd love to hear how you use this ingredient in your homemade recipes. Let us know your favorite xanthan gum tips and tricks in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.