I wanted to bake a gorgeous strawberry cake (that is if I could stop myself from eating the strawberries first). I do love strawberries, they photograph beautifully and possess a fabulous red colour that instantly makes you happy with every viewing.
Berries are abundant in vitamins and antioxidants and so really do make the perfect snack as outlined in 8 Perfect Reasons To Indulge In Berries. Fruit can be a useful way of reducing the amount of added sugar required in baking as explained in Can You Have Your Cake & Keep Your Waistline Too?
When it comes to natural binders that are egg free, bananas are by far my favourite. This lovely yellow fruit is accessible all year round, cheap and has a pleasant flavour even as a binder. It works wonderfully well every time. The only problem? It can get a little bit boring. That's where alternative binding agents can become useful.
Baking with xanthum gum for the first time was indeed a very memorable experience. I tried it for the first time today and I was very impressed that only a small amount was required for binding action. In the strawberry cake that I wanted to try, I only ended up using 1/2 teaspoon along with 1/4 teaspoon of arrowroot powder. I needed more wet ingredients therefore instead of milk, I used mango puree, strawberry jam and half of a small banana. The other half, I ended up eating of course!
It is difficult to describe the effect of xanthum gum, except that it really does scoop up absolutely every bit of powder in the bowl. The final result was a thick custard type mixture that was almost jelly like. It binds so well that I had to loosen up the loaf from the cake tin with a butter knife, before turning it over to cool. Perhaps greasing the tin beforehand would have been helpful, but I usually never find the need to.
The final product did not have a lot of 'height' to boast about yet it pleasantly maintained the gel type consistency out of the oven. It was definitely going to maintain its shape but missed the satisfying 'crumb' that you would expect from a cake. Xanthum gum may work best in a biscuit or bread recipe. The final verdict? It performs its duties as a binder, but I personally prefer bananas or alternative fruit puree. However, if you need to follow an egg free diet, it's great to know that you have options.
Have you baked with xanthum gum? If so, do share your experience and words of wisdom. I love hearing from you lovely readers!
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