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In my early days of being gluten-free, I swore I would never use binders like guar gum or xanthan gum. I thought they were creepy (I still do, actually). I wanted to believe you could bake healthy, delicious breads relying only on the natural qualities of flours and things like flax seeds and chia (I still believe this too). So, I went forth without them. Over the last two years of my gluten-free life, I have baked lots of crumbly loaves of bread, breads that were like sponges, breads that were like hockey pucks, breads that I put in my mouth and promptly threw away. Thankfully, I had more successes, but never was truly satisfied. I yearned for the beautiful breads on gluten-free sites like Gluten-Free Girl and La Tartine Gourmande and Gluten Free Goddess and Whole Life Nutrition. I too wanted to become more ambitious with my baking. I got sick of sawdust and pudding. I wanted the gluten back. So last Fall, I started experimenting with guar gum, and was generally disappointed. Too much guar gum makes me feel like someone injected putty into my intestines, and I don't really enjoy the texture that it creates in baked goods. It is just too, well, gummy. I've used it probably less than 5 times, and each time find myself unhappy.
What about that other infamous gluten-imatator, xanthan gum? Well, xanthan gum has occupied a touchy place in my life. You see, xanthan gum comes from the dried cell coat of a microorganism called Zanthomonas campestris. It is an all-natural ingredient derived from the fermentation of corn sugar, however, all corn sugars are removed in the processing of xanthan gum. Xanthan gum contains no corn protein and is usually tolerated by most corn-free people. Some people, however, have reactions. Fearing myself to be one of these people, I have been rather hesitant to jump on-board the xanthan gum train, nervous I would have some kind of corn-allergy reaction. Occasionally it would its way into my life, in a brown rice tortilla or something else pre-made, but for the most part, I have been actively avoiding it for the last two years.
A couple nights ago, I broke down. I did it. I threw care to the wind, and I bought my first bag of xanthan gum.