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Understanding different jelling agents and what they do - gelatin, pectin, and agar agar

Gelatin, pectin, and agar agar are all ingredients that are commonly used in baking and pastry making to give structure and stability to a variety of desserts. While they all have similar properties, they each have their own unique characteristics and are best suited for different applications. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between these three ingredients and discuss how to use them in baking.


Gelatin is a protein derived from animal collagen and is commonly used as a gelling agent in baking and pastry making. It is available in both powder and sheet form and is used to create a firm but flexible structure in products like jelly candies, gummy bears, and fruit snacks. It is also used to stabilize mousses, creams, and other creamy desserts. In these applications, gelatin acts as a thickening agent and helps to hold the structure of the dessert together.


To use gelatin, you will need to "bloom" it in cold water before adding it to your recipe. To bloom gelatin, sprinkle the desired amount of powder over a small amount of cold water and let it sit for a few minutes. This will allow the gelatin to absorb the water and become soft and pliable. Once the gelatin has bloomed, you can add it to your recipe by heating it gently until it is fully dissolved. Gelatin sets more quickly than other gelling agents, which means that it is a good choice for recipes that require a quick setting time. However, it is important to note that gelatin is a protein and it will break down when exposed to heat or acidic ingredients. This means that you should avoid boiling gelatin or adding it to recipes that contain a lot of acid, such as citrus fruits or vinegar.


Pectin is a natural carbohydrate that is found in the cell walls of plants, particularly in the skins and seeds of fruits. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in baking and pastry making, and it is available in both powder and liquid form. Pectin is commonly used to make jams and jellies, but it can also be used in other applications such as fruit pies and tarts. To use pectin, you will need to mix it with sugar and acid, such as lemon juice, and bring it to a boil. Pectin sets more slowly than gelatin and produces a softer, more elastic gel. It is also less prone to breaking down when exposed to heat or acidic ingredients, making it a good choice for recipes that require a softer, more delicate structure, such as mousses or fruit snacks.


Agar agar is a vegan alternative to gelatin and pectin. It is made from a type of seaweed and is available in both powder and flake form. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in plant-based desserts and is a good choice for those who are vegetarian or vegan. To use agar agar, you will need to mix it with a liquid and bring it to a boil. It sets more slowly than gelatin and produces a firmer, more elastic gel. It is also less prone to breaking down when exposed to heat or acidic ingredients, making it a good choice for recipes that require a firmer, more stable structure, such as jellies or fruit snacks.


In conclusion, gelatin, pectin, and agar agar are all useful ingredients for bakers and pastry chefs to have in their arsenal. They can be used to add structure and stability to a variety of baked goods and desserts. Gelatin sets more quickly and is best suited for recipes that require a quick setting time, while pectin and agar agar set more slowly and are best suited for recipes that require a softer, more delicate structure.

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