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[MUSIC PLAYING] CHRIS YOUNG: Xanthan
gum has actually become a very, very popular
modernist thickener. In fact, find it in
many supermarkets now because a lot of people
who do gluten-free bakery use xanthan gum as a thickener
to do something that normally is done by the protein gluten. Even though you might
not be familiar with it, there’s actually
not that much that’s weird about this ingredient. It’s made through microbial
fermentation much the same way that brewer’s yeast is made. If you’ve ever had
fermented vinegars or a fermented sourdough,
the way xanthan gum is made is very
similar to those. They take xanthomonas campestris
and ferment it on sugars. The difference is because
it’s a commercial product they tend to purify it, dry
it, and carefully grate it so that you end up with what
is more or less a white powder. And that makes it
unfamiliar to us, but it doesn’t
make it unnatural. A little goes a long way. Maybe as little
as half a percent of the weight of the liquid
you’re trying to thicken is enough. So for example,
about one gram is enough to thicken
200 grams of water. Sprinkle it in. And then use a little shearing
to disperse it into the water. And you’ll see that even
that half a percent by weight is enough to
thicken that liquid. It’s a property that
scientists call thixotropic, our nerd word for the day. As it’s sitting still, it’s
quite thick and viscous. But as soon as you start
to pour it, it thins out. This is a really nice property
in things like salad dressing. It makes it easy to
pour it from the bottle, but then it doesn’t run off
the leaves all over the plates. That and many other
reasons are why this has become such
a popular thickener. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Randall Smitham

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