Gum arabic, a hardened sap from the acacia tree commonly used in the manufacture of commercial food products, has a long history of use in Middle Eastern cooking. It functions in food as an emulsifier, a stabilizer or a thickener and takes on the properties of a gel or liquid depending on its moisture content. It is also used extensively in the field of molecular gastronomy, the application of scientific principles and methods in cooking.
Acquire gum arabic through a natural food supplier or a company that specializes in food chemicals used in molecular gastronomy. It's available in a powder, viscous or hardened form, so choose the type designated in your recipe. Make sure you purchase gum arabic classified as food grade, as other types exists for cosmetic and textile applications.
Gather all ingredients, cooking vessels and tools needed for the recipe. It's imperative to the proper execution of any recipe to have all items on hand and arranged in the order prescribed; this contributes to an organized workspace and saves time.
Weigh and measure each ingredient carefully, and store them in airtight containers until needed. Working with gum arabic, a hydrocolloid, requires precise measuring for the successful execution of a recipe. In molecular gastronomy, applications use a digital gram scale with an accuracy of +/- 0.05 grams, if possible. Too much gum arabic in a recipe produces excess viscosity, and too little results in a watery product.
Execute the recipe’s instructions exactly as prescribed. Incorporating ingredients into a recipe that uses hydrocolloids requires not only precise measurements, but also exact timing. If added out of order, gum arabic will not allow other ingredients to evenly disperse, keeping them suspended in the mixture.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.