Ingredient – agar

Name: agar (also known as agar agar which is the Malay name for red algae)

Colour: cream coloured powder

Flavour: no flavour

E number:  E406

agarWhat is it?

Agar is a gelatinous substance.

Where does it come from?

Agar is derived the cell walls of red algae.

Where does it come from?

It is derived from boiling a polysaccharide from certain red algae. It can be used instead of gelatin, making suitable option for vegetarians.

How is it used?

The main use for agar is as a gelling agent for desserts (particular Asian) and microbiological culturing (ie agar plates). Agar has a melting point at 85 degrees Celsius and begins solidifying at 38 to 40 degrees Celsius. This gives it favourable properties between easy melting and good gel stability. It also lends itself to re-melting, which is where it differs from gelatin.

Agar is around 80% fibre and absorbs water readily, resulting in a feeling of fullness, so has been used in fad diets.

To use agar, it should be soaked in liquid for 10 to 15 minutes before boiling for 5 minutes to dissolve. Ratios of use are dependent on pH. For acidic food use 1.3g of agar per 100mL of liquid. Neutral solutions require 0.9g per 100mL liquid. To check setting ability, place a small amount of agar solution in a cold bowl, it should set in 20 to 30 seconds, if is doesn’t add more agar, if it sets too firmly add more liquid.

How is it used in molecular gastronomy?

In MG it is used to create “spaghetti” such as white chocolate spaghetti and as a setting agent for desserts. It can also be used as a thickener for the sauce in pies (as demonstrated by Heston Blumenthal).

Where can I buy it?

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