With much joy, I announce I finally found agar-agar (if you live in Ottawa and you are desperately looking for it, try at Rainbow Foods).
We’ve already talked about agar-agar here. From the chemical point of view, it is a polysaccharide and is extracted from an algae. Seemingly to gelatine (collagen) and starch, agar-agar can form a gel and, consequently, has found many application in cooking.
Advantages of agar
It is tasteless.
It has a stronger jellying power than starch and gelatine. Just to give you an idea, I add 7 g of gelatine in my panna cotta, while I need just 2 g of agar-agar to obtain the same effect.
Coming from a vegetable source, it is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians.
Its activity is pH-independent. Contrary to pectine, which works only at acidic pH, gar-agar can be used also at neutral pH.
Agar-agar is not degraded by proteinases (it’s a polysaccharide, after all!), e.g. bromelain, found in fruit as pineapple or papaya. Therefore, agar-agar can be employed to make a bavarois with these type of fruits.
Agar-agar melts at relatively high temperatures, about 85 C. It means that you have to bring to boil the liquid destined to be jellied, to make sure that agar-agar is evenly melted.
The dissolution of agar-agar requires a bit longer time than gelatine (that I actually re-hydrate beforehand). This time, I didn’t hydrate the agar’s powder. Next time, I’ll try and see if it will dissolve more easily.
Panna cotta with strawberries and agar-agar
(Doses for 4 persons)
500 mL of fresh cream with 35% fats
100 g of sugar
7 ripe strawberries
2 table spoons of sugar
4-5 table spoons of sugar
2 g of agar-agar in powder
1 tea spoon of vanilla extract
Wash and clean the strawberries. Cut them in small pieces and place them in a pot with water and the two table spoons of water. Let the strawberries cook under a low flame, until you obtain a sauce (if needed, mashed the strawberries a bit with a fork). Turn the flame down and let the sauce cool a bit. Once it turns lukewarm, pour it in 4 glasses or single-portion ceramic pots.
Pour the cream, the sugar and the vanilla extract in a pot and bring everything to boil. Add agar-agar and let the mixture boil for a few minutes, so that the agar will properly melt. Slowly pour the liquid in the pots containing the strawberry sauce. Cover the panne cotte with some film paper and let them jellying. Agar-agar jellies already at 30-40 C. Transfer then the panne cotte in the fridge, till the time to serve.