Question on using Agar
Posted: 18 January 2010 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello to all you fellow cakebaker fanatics from beautiful sunny Calgary Alberta! I have a question connected to some of the earlier posts on Super Stabilized whipped cream. It was with great excitement that I finally sourced some AGAR some time ago in the Chinese market - but I have yet to find any detailed information on how to go about using it properly! One post mentions dissolving it in water over heat similar to gelatin and then mixing into (cold? unwhipped?) cream - but no quantities are given. Could anyone please fill me in - how much (weight? volume?) Agar is needed to gel specific amount of liquid satisfactorily? It looks like it would provide a lovely, flavour-free, clear and shiny gel glaze for fruit tarts! I’d also love to have a recipe for the super stabilized whipped cream. Thanks!!

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Posted: 18 January 2010 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The often-cited conversion between gelatin and agar is eight to one. meaning agar is 8x stronger than gelatin. However, they’re both natural products and, like all natural products, vary in strength from one manufacturer to another. The only way to know how much agar to use is to evaluate a series of experiments with different amounts of agar.

You would mix it in the whipped cream just as you do with gelatin. But first, what form did you source? If as strands or sheets, these need to be soaked just as gelatin leaves must, then wrung out before use. If powder, follow Rose’s recipe for whipped cream stabilized with powdered gelatin (p444 RHC) for your experiments to test the strength and see how much to use. You could use half the recipe for full strength (4 tsp or 8x 1/2 tsp gelatin), the other portion for half-strength (2 tsp), and see how they each turn out.

btw, agar in all its forms gels quickly as it cools, much more quickly than gelatin. It does give moderate to high clarity, but can give quite a bouncy gel if you use too much. Not what you want in whipping cream. It’s stable at room temp and in the mouth. Works well with acidic fruit like pineapple.

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Posted: 18 January 2010 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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HI Carolita! Thanks so much for your prompt reply! The Agar I bought is in the form of strands. The package says you may add from 100 to 150 times the amount of water to it.  I assume that I would soften it in cold water as per sheet gelatin, then squeeze it out and heat to dissolve it? I will have to measure it out by weight first to gauge how much to use for each application. Thanks for the heads up on its fast setting character - I have a tendency to go off and leave my gelatin base to cool while making mousses - and then trying vainly to incorporate cream or meringue into them - resulting in unsightly lumps, and improper setting! The firmness of Agar’s set is what gives “Chinese Finger Jellos” their great moulding capability and handling ease in serving - but not something you want in whipped cream! Will let you know how it goes…

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Posted: 18 January 2010 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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In my experience, the powdered form is the easiest to work with (and also the cheapest). Actually, a lot of people suggest replacing gelatin with an equivalent volume of powdered agar agar, and that is what I have done in the past.  I find agar to be somewhat tricky to work with, especially with things like whipped cream that need to stay cold and some fruits (such as kiwi, it won’t work at all), so do report back if you have success. Remember that it behaves differently from gelatin—sets at a different temperature, and once set can’t be mixed and reset like gelatin can.

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Posted: 18 January 2010 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I have used agar many times to stabilize whipped cream. The only kind I can find at my local Asian market is a powdered product mixed with sugar. So, I treat it as if it has the same strength as regular gelatin, owing to the presence of sugar.

Let’s say my recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of gelatin. I mix 1 teaspoon of agar with about 2 tablespoons of water, then I heat it in the microwave just until the boiling point so that it dissolves, without letting it boil over. Immediately, I add the whole mixture to the whipped cream (which has been beaten to the barely soft-peak stage) and beat briefly just until I get the consistency I want.

Carolita is right about the super-gel properties of pure agar. It is best to experiment when using the pure stuff, and err on the side of reducing the amount until you get the hang of it. I’m not sure you’ll want to squeeze out the sheets after you soak them. It might be best to just dissolve the amount you need in water, heat it, and add the heated mixture to the cream.

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Posted: 18 January 2010 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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You could try grinding up some of the threads in a clean coffee grinder if you want to try turning them into powder.

I had a link stored away about using agar—here it is:

http://www.veggiebelly.com/2009/12/sparkling-wine-juice-gelee-with-agar-agar.html

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Posted: 20 January 2010 12:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Christine—or anyone else—have you ever made a bavarian cream with agar instead of gelatin?

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Posted: 20 January 2010 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Matthew,

To answer you question, I always use agar in place of gelatin. For example, I have made the Gingery Pear Chiffon Tart from PPB (p. 163), and the Black Forest Chiffon Pie, p. 173. (Rose says “Chiffon” is the American name for Bavarian filling). I used agar in place of the gelatin in both of these recipes. I also made the Tiramisu Tart from PPB, and used agar in the mascarpone filling. In every case, the filling came out fine, and I got rave reviews on all those desserts.

Hope that helps.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks Christine, I’ll give it a shot.

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Posted: 15 June 2010 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I am a vegetarian and do not use gelatin at all for my cooking and have found agar-agar to be extremely difficult to work with when mixing it with cold mixtures, say whipped cream. Because they need to be heated to boiling point and sets very quickly, I always put the agar-agar mixture when they are still hot/ warm and this always curdles the cream!

Can anyone (Christine?? you’ve had success with your chiffon pies?) help with a true and tested method of using agar-agar into cold mixture?? I would especially LOVE to be able to make the chiffon pies from Rose’s book!

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Posted: 15 June 2010 01:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I totally understand your frustration tepi - I have had mixed success with my pure agar powder (ground strands)... It requires a significant time being at the boil to really completely dissolve it (unlike gelatin which disolves almost instantly if pre-softened).. and sets almost instantly when it chills… (Also - you can’t re-melt it if it sets on you - but I have gone at it with the immersible blender… still had some little lumps though!) Both these characteristics would be problematic when trying to incorporate into chilled mixtures and have uniform consistency. Would simmering the agar with a portion of the cream, then stirring remaining cream gradually back into warm mixture til all incorporated, and then whipping work? One then has to contend with trying to whip UN-chilled cream… I now have found some powdered product also - but it is half sugar - which throws another kink into the equation… Thanks for the feedback folks!

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