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Agar Agar

Agar, or agar agar, is a gelling agent extracted from red algae. It is commonly used to stabilize foams and to thicken or gel liquids. It is relatively easy to work with and a good starting point for modernist cooking.

Where to Buy Agar Agar

You can buy agar agar several places. We highly recommend ModernistPantry.com, they have great service and are really good to work with (because of this, we do have an affiliate relationship with them). You can also find it at WillPowder and get larger quantities at ForTheGourmet.com.

How Much Agar to Use

Bloody mary log close The firmness of an agar gel is determined by the amount of agar used to create the gel. The more agar that is used, the firmer the gel will be. Typically 0.2% agar is used for soft gels increasing up to 3.0% for firmer gels.

Fluid gels are usually made out of gels with a 0.5% to 2.0% ratio. Once again, the more agar used in the original gel results in a thicker fluid gel.

Agar foams use 0.3% to 1.0% for light foams and 1.0% to 2.0% for denser foams.

Agar Dispersion and Hydration

In order for agar to be used effectively it has to be properly dispersed and hydrated.

Agar Dispersion

Agar gelatin sheets 2Agar can be dispersed easily in hot or cold liquids. Using an immersion blender or standing blender is very effective but normally even a whisk will work fine.

Hydrating Agar

In order for agar to hydrate properly it has to be brought to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes. It also does not hydrate well in acidic liquids. If you are going to gel an acidic liquid, first hydrate the agar in a neutral liquid and then add it to the acidic liquid.

How to Create an Agar Gel

Agar locust bean gum gel 2 Creating a gel with agar results in a brittle gel. The firmness of the gel will depend on how much agar is used. You can make the gel more elastic by adding locust bean gum or gelatin to the flavored liquid when the agar is added.

Making an agar gel takes just a few steps. First, disperse the agar in the flavored liquid you want to gel using a whisk or blender. Then bring the liquid to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the liquid into molds and let it set at room temperature.

The gel will set at 40-45°C / 104-113°F and remain a gel as long as it stays below 80°C / 175°F. Agar gels will usually range from 0.2% agar in a very soft gel to 3.0% agar in very firm gels. If you are making the gel more elastic you can replace from 5% to 15% of the agar with locust bean gum. If you are using gelatin, it should be added at about the same weight as the agar.

How to Create an Agar Fluid Gel

Tomatillo agar pudding 2 Fluid gels19 are substances that behave like a gel when at rest and like a liquid when force is applied. Ketchup is probably the best know example of a fluid gel, as anyone that has struggled to get it out of the bottle, only to have it flood their hamburger, can attest.

Once you understand how agar gels work it is very easy to create fluid agar gels. The simplest way to create an agar fluid gel is to create a normal agar gel and let it set. Then puree the gel until smooth using an immersion blender or standing blender. You can thicken the fluid gel by adding some xanthan gum or thin it out by adding water or another liquid.

In general a ratio of 0.5% to 2.0% will be used to create the gels used for fluid gels.

How to Create an Agar Foam

Whipping siphon foam 2 Agar foams are made from agar fluid gels that are dispensed from a whipping siphon. These foams are thick, fine foams that are very dense. Because agar holds its shape under higher temperatures these foams can be served hot or cold.

For agar foams the more agar you use the denser the resulting foam will be. For light foams, a ratio of 0.3% to 1% works well. For denser foams 1% to 2% is recommended. You can also add gelatin, locust bean gum, or xanthan gum to change the density of the foam.

Interested in more information like this?

Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Getting Started covers many of the popular modernist techniques such as gelling, spherification, and foams. It also explores modernist ingredients like agar, sodium alginate, tapioca maltodextrin, and xanthan gum.

It is all presented in an easy to understand format along with more than 80 recipes and photographs.

I might be biased but I think
it's the best way to learn about modernist cooking!

Agar Agar Recipes and Articles

Habanero-Peach Dip Recipe

Peach-habanero-dip
This dip recipe combines the spicy heat of habanero peppers with the sweet taste of fresh ripe peaches. The resulting tangy dip is great on vegetables or even meat. By altering the amount of peppers used, you can raise or lower the heat to suit your guests.

Apple Cider Agar Gel Cubes Recipe

Apple-cider-gel-cubes2
These gel cubes are super easy to put together and they make a great small bite for people to enjoy. The quality of the cider you use will directly relate to how good the gels turn out.

Strawberry Daiquiri Agar Gel Cubes Recipe

Strawberry-daiquiri-agar-gel-close
These cocktail cubes are a fun way to entertain your guests. They are rum infused strawberries encased in a daiquiri cube. When you bite into them the cube starts off with a sweet and tart flavor followed up by the kick of the rum-infused strawberries.

Shortcakes with Agar Fruit Gels and Siphon Whipped Cream

Agar-fruit-gel-shortcake
One of my favorite spring dishes is shortcakes with fresh fruits or berries. The other day I decided to take advantage of some great looking berries and made a variety of shortcakes. To make them more modern, and to work on some recipes for my upcoming book, I used some whipping siphon foams and agar agar fruit gels.

Salmon Bites with Tomatillo Agar Fluid Gel Sauce Recipe

Tomatillo-agar-fluid-gel-pudding
These Mexican inspired salmon bites pack a lot of flavor in a little package. The acidity from the tomatillos compliments the salmon perfectly and the crunch from the fried tortillas adds great texture.

Orange-Ginger Gel Sheets

Agar-gelatin-sheets-2
One interesting use of modernist gelling is to create pliable gel sheets. These gel sheets are made by adding a combination of agar agar and gelatin to a flavored liquid and letting it set. The agar and gelatin add both elasticity for strength and a nice brittleness for flavor release. The ratio of the two ingredient will determine the final characteristic of the gel sheets.

Bloody Mary "Ants on a Log" Recipe

Bloody-mary-log-close
My wife's relatives in Florida love their Bloody Marys and this is her modernist take on them, focusing on the celery garnish and turning it into the serving vessel a la the traditional "ants on a log" children's snack.

Agar Bloody Mary Gel Recipe

Bloody-mary-log-close
One of the fun things about modernist cooking is changing the textures of common dishes while keeping the flavors the same. This creates almost a confusion in the palate when it's being eaten and the brain recognizes the flavors but not the textures. This recipe creates a solid Bloody Mary gel with agar agar that has applications in various dishes.

Papaya Agar Agar Gel Cube Recipe

Papaya-agar-gel-cubes
These agar gel cubes are a great way to add a unique visual style to a dish, as well as creating little bursts of papaya. You could use a similar agar recipe to gel many different liquids, depending on the dish you are creating.

Papaya Agar Agar Noodles Recipe

Papaya-agar-agar-noodles-close
Gels are a very common technique in modernist cooking. This modernist recipe uses the gelling properties of agar agar to make papaya noodles. These agar agar noodles are a great addition to a several different dishes and are an easy way to add a touch of flair.

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Recipe

Balsamic-pearls-thumbnail
One of the easiest molecular gastronomy recipes to try is by creating "pearls". Most pearls are solid jelly balls that can be used to garnish dishes or as an amuse-bouche.

Here we use sweet-sour balsamic vinegar to make pearls that are a great way to add a hit of flavor to many different dishes. The process of making them is even pretty easy.

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