vegan baker

what the internet says about gums. (terribly exciting!)
January 25, 2008, 1:26 am
Filed under: exotic foods | Tags:

I have, of course, never been to WD-50 or El Bulli in Spain. The vegan thing gets in the way of exploring avant garde cuisine. But I am fascinated by some of what these chefs are doing. As far I understand it, the places where veganism and “molecular gastronomy” overlap are emulsifiers and gums. We both need the less traditional (non-egg, non-gelatin) ones so we can get our kicks.

Here’s a quote from a 2004 Times article about avant garde cooking: “…Mr. Achatz said that he makes quick dairy-free, egg-free “puddings” by setting liquids with agar-agar and then softening them to a puddinglike consistency in the blender. Virtually any liquid can be treated this way.” But it isn’t just about agar, which is old news. There are so many strange new toys and techniques being developed.

Doesn’t that sound like useful food science? So, emulsifiers and gums. I’m starting with the one I understand less. So what has the internet been telling me about gums today?

Here’s a little history of gum tragacanth, the “gum” in gum paste, the medium used for making 3D flowers that you scatter on fondant cakes. Here’s a post on another blog about carageenan, methyl cellulose and hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose. Here is an NPR story about gum arabic, also known as gum acacia, and maybe the most ubiquitous of the food gums. It is the one on envelopes and stamps. Here’s a chart that compares characteristics of some water soluble gums at this totally nerdy but interesting website with tons of links.

I’ll try not to go nuts with this. But I’ll report back when I can say something about food gums as a whole, especially since they’re used so often in vegan food and baking. Pectin? Cornstarch? Agar? Gums, gums, gums.


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My favorite desert when I was a kid is a vegan pudding my mom made up.

All it takes is soy milk, maple syrup, almond extract, and agar agar. Follow the instructions on the agar agar package for the liquid to flake ratio (I forget off the top of my head) and, to however much soy milk, add a little bit of almond extract and a larger bit of maple syrup. We’d make these in little ramekins, unmold them upside down, and top with more maple syrup. They’re absolutely delicious and they’re still maybe my favorite desert. The agar agar gives them a tapioca-ish texture, but it gels up much better than tapioca would allow.

Comment by Lia

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