Are you in awe of pastries and desserts that stand up straight and look great? Their little secret to being so beautiful is often the addition of food gelatin .
But do you really know this sometimes controversial ingredient ?
How do you make gelatin? What food contains gelatin? Are there alternatives?
We will explain everything in this article for the difference between the gelling agents recommended for your cooking or baking recipes .
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is a natural substance obtained from pork rind or beef skin and bones but also sometimes from fish.
Bovine and porcine gelatin are rich in collagen which is the protein often found in cosmetics.
This animal gelatin is sold in the form of sheets or powder which must be rehydrated in cold water before using it in your recipe by dissolving it in a hot liquid to obtain the desired texture.
You will find in the trade that certain gelatins have an index written on their packaging, also called “ bloom degree ”. This is not a quality index but a gelling power index generally located between 80 and 300.
The higher the index, the stronger the gelling power. The proportions vary according to the recipes and the desired result. The food gelatin most often recommended in baking recipes is often 200 bloom .
After several hours of rest, the gelatin will give a creamy and melting texture to your recipe. It has no odor or color and is perfectly digestible. This is why it remains the preferred gelling option for French cooks and pastry chefs.
However, being of animal and often porcine origin, it will not be suitable for vegetarians or certain religious diets. There are now halal and kosher gelatin commercially available. Now Parisian palaces like Le Meurice where pastry chef Cédric Grolet operates, use this type of pork-free gelatin to offer their dishes and desserts to all their guests.
Its food additive trade code is E441.
- To use the animal gelatin in sheets , it will have to be immersed in cold water for a good 5 minutes. Then squeeze it between your hands to remove excess water. Thereafter it will have to be melted in your hot preparation without boiling it.
- To use powdered animal gelatin , it must be diluted in 6 times its volume of water. If your recipe indicates 1 sheet of gelatin = 2g, you will therefore have to pour your 2g of powder into 12g of cold water. Once rehydrated, it will look like a gelatinous mass that will have to be melted in your hot preparation.
If your animal gelatin is not 200 bloom then the proportions will be different .
Just do a little mathematical calculation like this:
- Your gelatin is 300 bloom but your recipe is 200 bloom :
=> 300/200 = 1.5
- Your recipe is made up of 2 sheets of gelatin or 4g of powder:
=> 4/1.5 = 2.7
- So add 2.7g of 300 bloom gelatin instead of 4g of 200 bloom gelatin
How to use Agar Agar ?
Among food gelling agents is agar agar which has been used for many years in Japanese cooking. It is sometimes listed on your food packaging with its food additive code E406 .
This natural and powerful gelling agent is extracted from a red seaweed discovered in 1658 in Japan.
Usually sold in powder form, it must be incorporated cold into your preparation before boiling for a few seconds. Agar agar gels very quickly on cooling without the need for refrigeration.
The advantage of this gelling agent is that it allows you to restart your preparation in the event of a dosage error if your recipe is too liquid and/or too dense.
However, beware of acidic ingredients such as citrus fruits which reduce the effectiveness of the gelling power of agar agar.
What is Pectin gelling agent?
Pectin is a gelling and thickening substance found naturally in fruits such as apples or quinces.
This fruit pectin is marketed in the form of a ready-to-use powder .
Contemporary pastry chefs are alchemists who combine gelling and texturizing agents with each other in order to obtain the best results.
Unlike agar agar, natural pectin prefers to be previously associated with acidic liquids such as citrus before incorporating it into your preparation.
Little pastry trick to obtain a dessert with the texture of flan; combine the pectin with a touch of agar agar.
Its food additive trade code is E440.
What are the differences between gelling agents?
The gelling power of agar agar is 8 times greater than that of animal gelatin !
However, in your recipes, you cannot replace agar agar with animal gelatin by dividing its quantity by 8. That would be too easy =)
Unfortunately, there is no universal conversion rule to simplify our lives.
Indeed, agar agar will give your preparations a firmer and more brittle texture than food gelatin which is more melting and creamy . In addition, agar agar does not support freezing , which can be problematic for the production of desserts.
There is still a little trick to get around these drawbacks by adding a source of starch to the agar agar such as corn or potato starch .
For an optimal result it is preferable not to add more than 1% of agar agar powder compared to the total quantity of liquid.
As you will have understood, it is easier to replace agar agar with animal gelatin than the reverse.
In general, it takes 2g of agar agar against 8g of gelatin for 50cl of liquid .
How is Vegetable Gelatin made ?
Vegetable gelling agents are sometimes found on the market under the name “ vegetable gelatin ”.
Some pastry chefs use these natural gelling agents as a texturizer for the preparation of certain creams. Glaciers prefer to use pectin and carob for their specific stabilizing properties at low temperatures .
Do it yourself !
Now you know the different food gelatins .
Gelatin makes it possible to make superb original desserts provided you have the right silicone moulds .
These dessert molds are the only ones to resist temperature variations like those of food gelatin going from heat to freezing without loss of quality.
Discover our range of silicone molds for making your recipes by clicking on the image below .