Gelatin and agar agar

Agar agar and gelatin for desserts and pastries

How do you find your way around these two products? What is agar agar? How to use gelatin? 

What is gelatin?

Gelatin is a clear, tasteless food ingredient that thickens and solidifies liquid and semi-liquid foods. Gelatin is derived from collagen found in the bones, connective tissue and skin of pigs, cattle and other animals. Collagen can also be derived from fish bones. Boiling the bones extracts the protein, which "sets", or partially solidifies, as it cools. This is what produces the fatty, gelatinous layer on top of a pot of homemade broth. Gelatin sold commercially for culinary purposes is purified before being dried and packaged. It is used in cooking to gel foods, sauces, mousses, creams etc.

It is also used in cooking or in cosmetic products, medicine capsules.

The different gelatins

Gelatin comes in sheet or powder form. Gelatin sheets dissolve slowly and result in a clearer, purer tasting final product. The individual grains of powdered gelatin disperse more easily in a dish and dissolve more quickly.

Gelatin sheets are available in four distinct concentrations: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The "bloom strength" distinguishes each level. The higher the bloom strength, the higher the melting points of the gel and the shorter the setting time of the gelatin.

In which recipes should gelatin be used?

Gelatin thickens mousse-based desserts (entremets), ice cream, panna cotta, marshmallows, jelly beans, etc. It can be mixed with many liquids or semi-solid substances to create structure and shape. 

Gelatin solidifies as it cools and usually needs to be refrigerated. The concentration and quality of the gelatin determines the exact temperatures at which it solidifies and melts. Most gelatins have a melting point close to body temperature, which gives foods made with gelatin a smooth, creamy, chocolate-like mouthfeel.

How to cook with gelatin?

Gelatin must be dissolved in another substance to be activated. This means that any recipe containing gelatin must have a liquid component that is heated for the gelatin to dissolve. The food must then be cooled to allow the gelatin to set.

  • Gelatin sheets: Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for five minutes to soften, then gently squeeze out excess moisture before using.
  • Powdered gelatin: Mix powdered gelatin with hot water before adding to a recipe. Use about three tablespoons of water per tablespoon of gelatin, stir in the granules and let sit for a few minutes. As the gelatin absorbs the water, it thickens to the consistency of applesauce.

Gelatin should not be boiled because high heat destroys its ability to solidify.

What does gelatin taste like?

Gelatin has no taste or smell. It takes the taste of what you prepare with it. Practical, isn't it?

How to replace gelatin?

Because gelatin is made from animal collagen, it is not suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets. There are alternatives to gelatin that have a similar gelling action and are suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets. For example, agar agar is the closest and most commonly used alternative in baking. 

You will also find arrowroot, guar gum, xanthan gum as substitutes to gelatin but their use requires a good knowledge of the product because they all thicken differently.

How to store gelatin?

Store the leaves and gelatin powder in a cool, dark and dry place. Avoid exposure to water or moisture. If stored correctly, gelatin can be kept indefinitely. Foods made with gelatin should be kept in the refrigerator as they may deteriorate if exposed to heat.

Where to buy gelatin?

At Féerie Cake we offer a variety of gelatin in sheets, powder or spray to make your desserts

What is agar agar?

Agar-agar is a vegetable gelatin derived from algae. This white, semi-translucent vegetable gelatin is sold as flakes, powder, bars and strands and can be used in recipes as a stabilizing and thickening agent. It is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. In the kitchen it is used to thicken sauces and desserts just like food gelatin.

What is the difference between agar agar and gelatin?

The main difference between agar-agar and gelatin lies in their origin. While gelatins of animal origin are made from animal collagen, agar-agar is purely vegetarian, coming from red algae.

They also behave differently and must be prepared separately when incorporated into a recipe. Agar-agar must be boiled to harden, while gelatin can simply dissolve in hot water, as agar-agar melts at 80°C, while gelatin melts at 30-35°C.

Agar-agar also hardens faster than gelatin and does not require refrigeration.

The resulting texture of your recipes will also be different. Dishes prepared with agar-agar will be firmer and less creamy and gelatinous than those prepared with gelatin. Agar-agar recipes also remain firm when exposed to higher temperatures, whereas gelatin loses some of its stability.

How to cook with agar-agar?

Before agar-agar powder can be added to a recipe, it must be dissolved in water and then boiled. Dissolve the agar-agar in liquid in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer until it thickens slightly, about five to seven minutes. 

Use 1 teaspoon (2g) to thicken 1/2 L of mixture. It also depends on the consistency you want. The more agar you use, the thicker the mixture will be.

It is important to note that high acid foods, such as citrus fruits, strawberries and kiwi fruit, may require additional amounts of agar to fully gel.

Discover also the pectin, another gelling agent for the preparation of your jams and fruit jellies.