Using agar agar in place of gelatin
Posted: 19 March 2011 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m a vegetarian and would like to make some of the recipes that call for gelatin. Can agar agar be substitued in equal amounts? I’ve also noticed that agar agar comes in several forms (powdered, flaked, & sheets). I assume that powdered would be the best one to use, but would like to know what your opinion is.

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Posted: 19 March 2011 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve used it a number of times, and there are two main issues:  first, it sets at a hotter temp than gelatin, so it can be problematic to add it to cold mixtures, such as whipped cream.  If you search the web, you’ll see lots of info on melting and setting temps and how much it takes to gel a liquid. 

Second, it sets up with a firmer texture than gelatin, which may or may not bother you.  It works well for solidifying fruit purees to use alone as a cake filling. 

I have had great results just adding the (undissolved/unheated) powder to whipped cream as a stabilizer- it even stabilizes enough to freeze the cream.  However, I use 40% pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) heavy cream, so it may not work as well for lower-fat UP cream, I haven’t tried it.

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Posted: 20 March 2011 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks so much! grin

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Posted: 21 March 2011 01:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Julie, I am intrigued by the idea of using just the undissolved agar powder in whipped cream. I’ve always dissolved it in boiling water and trickled it into the whipped cream in the mixer to stabilize it. Will you share your method for incorporating the powder, along with approximate proportions, etc.? (I, too, use the 40% pasteurized cream, and it is the best!)

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Posted: 21 March 2011 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It takes double the amount that would be needed if you are dissolving it in boiling water, i.e., 1 tsp per cup of heavy cream.  I just sprinkle it in with the sugar and vanilla.  I credit Matthew for trying it and reporting on his success, which inspired me to do it as well.  Works like a charm.

Editing to clarify:  If you’re going to dissolve the powdered agar agar in boiling water, you generally need 1/2 tsp per cup of liquid for a firm set.  The liquid that you add it to needs to be somewhat warm (or at least not cold) as the agar sets around 90F and it needs to be able to mix in properly before it hardens.

If you’re going to sprinkle the powder into heavy cream to stabilize for whipping (without first dissolving it in boiling water), you need 1 tsp per cup of cream.

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Posted: 22 March 2011 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Julie, can you clarify your ratios?  Do you mean if you’re just adding the agar to the whipped cream, it’s 0.5 tsp per cup of cream?  And if you dissolve it in boiling water then you need 2 tsp?  Or something else?

I’m planning on making the strawberry cloud cream with the agar dissolved in the strawberry puree, so I’m interested in the “dissolving option” the most.

Thanks again for the tips!

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Posted: 22 March 2011 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Ok, I’ve edited my response, above, to be clear about the amounts used for the different methods.

Good luck with your cloud cream, and please report back on your results!

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Posted: 22 March 2011 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Many thanks!  Will certainly report back. wink

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Posted: 28 March 2011 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Using agar worked fine!  I was a bit paranoid, so I used both methods: I used 1/2 tsp dissolved into some hot puree (which was then incorporated into room temp puree before adding to the cream) and also 1/2 tsp added in powder form to the cream itself.  It was pretty soft during the piping stage, but set up nicely in the fridge. 

The greater danger than too-soft cloud cream was the point of deciding when to stop beating before ruining the texture.  I made several batches since I was doing a large multi-tier cake, and I kept going for stiffer peaks with one batch and wound up with some less-than-perfect cloud cream since it went a bit grainy/curdly.  I think it’s better to err on the side of too soft while the cream is still smooth, and then it will likely set up more once chilled.

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Posted: 28 March 2011 11:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks for the notes, Margaret!  Glad to hear you cloud cream turned out well.  smile

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Posted: 28 March 2011 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Any good sources for small quantities of Agar Agar?  I would like to try this with whipped cream.

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Posted: 28 March 2011 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I had been thinking that it was an exotic ingredient that I would need to mail order, but then came across it when I wasn’t even looking for it.  Turns out my local coop health food store sells it in the bulk section as a vegan alternative to gelatin.  Just make sure to get the finely powdered kind, as trying to process larger pieces on home equipment doesn’t really work very well.

Also, Matthew reports that he finds it inexpensively at Asian markets.  It’s traditionally a Japanese product, so it may also be available in the Asian foods section of your grocery.

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Posted: 17 April 2011 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Check out Amazon. They have a variety of amounts available. One is from Barry Farms. I haven’t used their agar agar, but have used several other products & liked them.

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