Sourced from naturally growing seaweeds, agar is a gelling agent of plant origin, which forms transparent gels.
Agar is ideal for thickening and gelling in foods without affecting colour or flavour. Since its gelling power is ten times higher than animal gelatine, it is effective at very low levels. Agar is used by great chefs to create distinctive gels, foams and textures. As an added bonus, agar has a very high content of soluble fibre (almost 90% by weight) and minerals, so is often included in dietetic foods.
Unlike other food hydrocolloids such as carrageenan and pectin, agar does not require other agents (such as salts) to form gels. Thus it contributes much less to ash content than other gelling agents.
The main applications of agar (E-406) in food are confectionery (jellies, caramels, toppings, jams, cake and doughnut icings), dairy products, a range of canned foods, baked goods, soups and casseroles.
The use of agar-agar in the food industry depends on these specific properties:
- - High power gelling
- - Effective over a wide pH range
- - Stability to thermal treatments
- - Large hysteresis (difference between melting and gelling point)
- - Capacity to produce reversible gels
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