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Friday, April 29, 2011

Agar agar powder

Agar agar powder has been known by people who live in Asian countries for centuries, Japanese has consumed Agar agar for more than 450 years. But a lot of people who are raised up in western countries have very little knowledge about it.

So, What is Agar agar powder?
Agar agar powder is slso known by its Japanese name Kanten, Agar is derived from Gracilaria (Gelidium species) a bright red sea vegetable (Gleidium purpurascens). This product has a gel strength of 1000.

What does Agar agar do?
Agar due to its high gelling properties is considered the King of gelling agents. Excellent as a thickening agent for doughnuts, marmalade & jam, jelly, cheese, puddings, gelatin fruit desserts, meat products, bakery fillings and icings, dry and canned soups and ice cream.
Natural agar agar is unflavored producing a firm, clear jelly and is rich in iodine and trace minerals and has mildly laxative properties. Agar agar is also well known for its fibre content (highest among all vegetables).

Agar agar has stronger setting properties and, unlike gelatin which requires refrigeration to set, it will set at room temperature after about an hour - although it is advisable to store dishes gelled with agar agar in the fridge as it is a high protein food.

Powdered agar can be substituted for the same quantity of unflavored gelatin in recipes.
Typical usage level is 1/2 percent agar in water.

The gelling ability of agar agar is affected by the acidity or alkalinity of the ingredients it is mixed with. More acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and strawberries, may require higher amounts of agar agar.

Some ingredients will not set with it at all such as: kiwi fruit (too acidic), pineapple, fresh figs, paw paws, papaya, mango and peaches, which contain enzymes which break down the gelling ability (although cooked fruit seems to lose this effect), chocolate and spinach.

For a firm jelly you require approximately 2 teaspoons of powder per 1 pint ( 600ml) of liquid.

One suggested way to use Agar Agar powder !
Agar agar powder should be soaked in the liquid first for 5 minutes, then gently brought to a boil and simmered while stirring until it dissolves completely, this will take about 5 minutes.

Unlike gelatin, agar agar can be boiled and can even be re-melted if necessary.
If you are unsure as to the setting ability of your gel, test a small amount on a cold saucer - it should set in 20-30 seconds, if not you may need more agar agar, if too firm - add some more liquid.

Editor - April 2011

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