Agar is the name for the natural jelly from seaweed; learn how to use Agar to give texture while reducing fat and sugar.
HOW TO USE AGAR IN ITS VARIOUS FORMS
Most people from Asia know how to use Agar. Asians have used it to make jellies for centuries. It is available there in 3 different forms:
- bars (made up of strands),
- granules and
Because Agar needs to be heated to 90 C to dissolve properly, the powdered form is easiest to work with. To measure them properly, break bars and flakes down into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder. The powder form dissolves faster and more evenly.
Conversion: 1 teaspoon agar powder = 1 tablespoon agar flakes = 1/2 agar bar
HOW TO USE AGAR - RATIOS
The ratios below are guidelines only.
for a hard set: 1 tsp Agar powder per cup of liquid
soft set - wobbly: ½ - ¾ tsp per cup
jam-like: 1/3 - ½ tsp per cup
dressing-like: ¼ tsp per cup
KEY SUCCESS FACTORS:
Things you must know when working with Agar, they are essential to success.
- A little goes a long way - Measure it carefully
- Blooming & bringing to temperature are key factors in enabling the gelling power
- The acidity of the liquid used will also impact the gelling ability of the Agar; a more acidic liquid will require more Agar to set
- Agar will set at room temperature so do not wait until the liquid becomes cold before pouring it into a serving dish, once agar sets it will not reset properly once disturbed!
- Unlike gelatin (See converting from gelatine), agar can be re-melted if necessary, so there is no such thing as a mistake with Agar!
HOW TO USE AGAR - TIPS:
Below are some tips to make sure you get the result you want:
- Agar needs to 'bloom' or re-hydrate in the liquid first for 8-10 minutes
- Then the mixture must reach 85-90 C to activate the thickening agent in the agar. Agar won't perform if the liquid is not brought to temperature because it won't melt. No need to boil as prolong heating past the melting point can destroy the gelling capabilities.
- It is important to stir constantly until complete dissolution, otherwise Agar may stick to the bottom of the pan.
- If you have never used agar, beware: it’s very easy to overdose and end up with something too hard to eat.
- Like gelatine, agar breaks down and doesn't set if exposed to the enzymes of certain raw tropical fruits like kiwi fruit, papayas, pineapple, peaches, mangoes, guavas and figs. They contain an enzyme (bromelin) that can prevent Agar from setting. Heating the fruits through before using them with Agar will destroy the enzyme and allow the recipe to set successfully.
- To test whether your dish will set properly, spoon a small amount on a cold plate - it should set in 20-30 seconds. Add more Agar or more liquid to remedy the situation, following the directions described above.
- Agar recipes will set as they reach room temperature and do not require refrigeration to gel; they will continue to harden over a couple of hours.
- Jelly made with Agar may ‘sweat’ when weather is humid. To prevent this, you may dissolve 1 tsp of corn starch (corn flour) with the agar into the liquid that you are cooking
BENEFITS OF USING AGAR
Agar may be a new ingredient in your kitchen. You may need to invest a bit of time & effort to get comfortable using it. It is much more than a gelatine substitute, that is why it is so popular.
Agar is a positive substitute for gelatine in any diet, and is especially relevant for vegetarian and vegan diets. Agar has many advantages over animal gelatine. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless, making it an ingredient of choice for the most delicate dish. Being a functional food, it provides more than nutrition, it can help our health in many important ways.
Agar can be used in a variety of applications that have different jellifying requirements: puddings, savoury jellies, jams & marmalade with less sugar, dressings without fats, fruit puree and yogurt, to name a few. Agar can also be used other ways to replace eggs in vegan recipes or to reduce fat & sugar while keeping the creamy texture. See our agar-recipe-brochure for inspiration. It is possible to make RAW dishes using agar, check it out!