Molecular’s Little Helpers: The Most Important Additives

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Molecular cuisine relies heavily on additives, some of which are vegan and actually quite helpful, while others… I’ll never understand why people put some of this stuff into their food.

There are of course a lot more than listed here, but these are the ones I regard as most important (as I use them a lot).
Others may have a different opinion but that doesn’t mean they’re right and I’m wrong. 🙂

I don’t list them alphabetically here, but rather in the order of their importance for my own cooking.
For a quick overview on the dosage, please check here:
Molecular’s Little Helpers: Dosage

Agar Agar (E406):
Used for Gelification.
Agar Agar is believed to have been discovered in Japan in the mid 17th century. It’s obtained from Red Marine Algae, making it a vegan alternative to Gelatine.
Besides Gelification, it’s also used as a laxative and an appetite suppressant, depending on the dosage.
If you stick to the dosage recommended below you should be on the safe side though.
Overdosing in a recipe will cause your product to have a rubbery, hard texture.
For gelification, Agar Agar is my favourite additive.
Dosage: approx. 0,3g – 1g/100g

Xanthan Gum (E415):
Used for Emulsification.
Xanthan Gum was discovered in the early 1960s and was approved for use in foods in 1968.
It’s produced by fermentation of sugar. The name is derived from the bacteria used in the fermentation process, called Xanthomonas Campestris.
Xanthan Gum increases the viscosity of a liquid. It can also be used to make foams.
Many gluten-free products contain Xanthan, as it gives products the stickiness which normally comes from Gluten.
High doses of Xanthan work as a laxative (approx. 15g/day). Sticking to the recommended dosage will keep you well below this number.
Dosage: approx. 0,3g – 0,5g/100g

Lecithin (E322):
Used for Emulsification.
Lecithin, as we use it in cooking, is a mixture of phospholipids in oil.
The major source of lecithin is soybean-oil.
Genetically modified crops may be used here but they aren’t detectable in the end-product. Therefore you can never be certain that your product is GM-free.
I use it mainly for creating foams.
Dosage: approx. 0,3g – 0,6g/100g

Calcium Lactate (E327):
Used for Spherification and Reverse Spherification.
Calcium Lactate is produced by the reaction of lactic acid with either Calcium Hydroxide or Calcium Carbonate.
It reacts with Sodium Aginate, forming a skin around a sphere, therefore in Molecular Cuisine both are normally used together.
Dosage: approx. 5g-7g/1l Water (Spherification), 1g/100g (Reverse Spherification).

Sodium Alginate (E400):
Used for Spherification and Reverse Spherification.
Sodium Alginate is refined from Brown Seaweed.
It reacts with Calcium Lactate, forming a skin around a sphere, therefore in Molecular Cuisine both are normally used together.
Dosage: approx. 5g/1l Water (Spherification), 0,5-1g/100g (Reverse Spherification).

Gellan Gum (E418):
Used for Gelification.
Gellan Gum is produced by the bacterium Sphingomonas Elodea.
This bacterium was discovered in the US in 1978.
Other than Agar Agar, gels made with Gellan Gum are heat-resistant up to 70 Degrees Celsius, therefore I use it mainly for creating hot gels.
Dosage: approx. 0,6g – 1g/100g

Carrageenan Kappa (E407):
Used for Gelification.
Carrageenan Kappa is derived from Red Edible Seaweed.
This is one of the oldest additives we know, as it was used in China as far back as 600 B.C.
Carrageenan won’t dissolve in cold water, therefore water must first be heated to at least 60 Degrees Celsius before adding it.
I don’t really use it a lot as I find that I can use Agar Agar in the majority of cases where I want to create a gel.
Dosage: approx. 0,6g – 1,2g/100g

Methyl Cellulose (E461):
Used for Gelification.
I only list this additive because it appears in some recipes I have found. I don’t recommend using it!
Methy Cellulose is produced by heating cellulose with a caustic solution and adding Methyl Chloride.
Methyl Cellulose has one distinctive property that makes it special: it sets when hot and it melts when cold.
This is the one additive I don’t ever use. I have some which I purchased for testing but I don’t prepare food with it.
Methyl Cellulose is also used as wallpaper-glue. Who wants to eat glue?
Another use is in the Adult Movie Industry where it’s used as fake… I leave this to your imagination. With the pictures you have in your head now, do you really want that stuff in your mouth? 😉
Neither do I.
Plus I wouldn’t know why I’d need a hot gel that melts when it cools down.
Dosage: approx. 3g/100g

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