Agar agar is made from red algae that grows naturally in eastern Asia and California. Agar agar can be used in powder or flake form. Agar agar jelly powder is best for thickening sauces, soups and jellies. Agar agar is also used in science laboratories as a growth medium on petri dishes to grow microorganisms. Agar agar is similar to gelatin except agar is firmer and is not liquid at room temperature, like gelatin. Agar agar is found in marshmallows, jams, candies and other gummy foods. The red algae used to make agar agar can be grown and cultivated in your own aquarium or purchased in picked leaf form.
Stick a toothpick through the top of each leaf of algae and hang each one from an oven rack by lowering the algae between the tines on the rack and allowing the toothpick to rest between the tines on the rack.
Place the oven rack on the top of the oven. The algae should hang down from each rack without touching anything except the toothpick that it is hanging from. Place the sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any flakes or moisture that falls from the algae leaves.
Turn the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and crack the oven door about 2 inches to allow the algae to dry for about two hours, or until the leaves crumbled when touched.
Carefully pull out the oven rack with the algae and the sheet pan below the leaves. Remove the toothpick from each leaf and allow it to drop down onto the sheet pan below.
Crunch the leaves up gently on the sheet pan so that they will fit in the coffee grinder or food processor. Place them in the coffee grinder or food processor and turn it on high for about five minutes or until the dried leaves become powder. Store the powder in a jar sealed tightly or a sealed zip top bag.
You can also make agar agar flakes by crushing the dried leaves with your fingers and eliminating the grinding step.
If the agar agar powder is exposed to the air it may form lumps. Put it back in the food processor or coffee grinder to remove the lumps.