Amazingly a sea vegetable, this plant-based ingredient changed my world of culinary possibilities forever!
It is the weirdest stuff, but makes a fantastic gelling agent. When I was able to create a perfect pumpkin pie custard without any eggs, I could hardly contain myself. The most important thing to know is that the magical gelling potential of this ingredient requires that it is boiled for a few minutes. While you can also use agar agar powder (it is more rapid-acting than the flakes and does not need to be cooked for so long), I typically use the flake form, since it is often easier to find for most people. If you have access to the powder and prefer to use it, go ahead and do so to save cooking time. When you do, be sure to reduce the amount of the powder used to about one-third the amount of the flakes recommended.
When experimenting with agar agar as a gelling agent, it is important to know that the liquid you choose matters. While you can use it with a lot of different ingredients, if you use liquids with a high acid or enzyme content (such as those found in fruits like papaya, mango, lemon, and pineapple) these enzymes and acids prevent agar agar from gelling properly. With some creative maneuvering and greatly increasing the agar agar content, sometimes you can still enjoy delicious foods even using these juices. However, I don’t recommend trying this if you are still a beginner in the kitchen. For this level of recipe development, you’ll want to first grow thicker skin and get ample experience under your belt first by making tried-and-true recipes with agar agar. This will prepare you to more easily endure the oftentimes frustrating process of many recipe development failures. J If you are already an experienced cook or feel ready to explore in the new land of agar agar, it can be a really fun ingredient to play with that makes unexpected treasures possible!
Click here for a delicious jelly recipe.