If only there were a magic, easy-to-use ingredient that would create a more delicate texture in gluten-free treats. Gluten-free folks, meet Xanthan Gum!
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, is responsible for chewy bread, cakes that spring back, and cookies that don’t crumble. Gluten chains help doughs and batters rise by trapping gas bubbles, resulting in light, airy finished products that hold their shape. Without gluten, baked goods can be heavy and dense. If you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you are probably all too familiar with this.
What is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan Gum is a natural hydrocolloid used commercially in foods as a thickening agent and stabilizer. When added to water, xanthan gum forms a gel. That gel helps keep ingredients emulsified and suspended so they look appetizing on the shelf. Think salad dressings with lots of herbs and spices.
Why Use Xanthan Gum in Gluten-Free Baking?
Most importantly, Xanthan gum does a great job of duplicating the elasticity of gluten in gluten-free flours. The result, muffins and cakes with perfect sponge and deliciously chewy pizza doughs.
How Much Xanthan Gum Do I Use?
There are lots of great gluten-free flour options available, but not all of them contain Xanthan Gum. If you are creating your own recipe using gluten-free flour sans Xanthan Gum, here is a quick measurement guide for ensuring you don’t end up baking tough bricks:
For yeasted breads and pizza doughs, add 1 tsp of Xanthan Gum per cup of gluten-free flour.
For cakes and muffin, add ½ tsp per cup of gluten-free flour.
When possible, use a kitchen scale. If you don’t have an available scale, avoid scooping the flour with your measuring cup. Doing so compresses the flour and you will likely end up adding too much flour to the recipe. Instead, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level with a knife.
Let’s Get Baking!
The holidays are fast approaching. If you or a loved one is gluten-free, there is no need to sit on the sidelines. There are tons of great recipes out there, and with a little Xanthan Gum, you won’t be able to tell the difference! Check out this great recipe for gluten-free Stollen, or for the perfect brunch option, serve up some delightfully lemony gluten-free Pistachio Scones.
Gluten-Free Pistachio Scones
For the Scone:
1 ¾ cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum
2 cups ground almonds
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup finely chopped pistachios
1 egg, beaten
For the Lemon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375F.
2. In medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, ground almonds, salt, and lemon zest.
3. Cut cold butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your fingertips until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
4. Add sugar and buttermilk, pistachio flavoring and vanilla. Mix to form soft dough.
5. Add 1/2 cup of the pistachios, gently working into dough.
6. Put dough onto floured surface and work into 9 inch round.
7. Transfer to greased baking sheet.
8. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with remaining pistachios.
9. Score into 8 sections, avoiding cutting all the way through.
10, Bake for 20-25 minutes. The scones should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
11. To make the glaze, mix all ingredients until smooth. Add milk to thin, if necessary. Drizzle over scones.
12. Best served the same day.