Isomalt is a sugar substitute that is used to sweeten foods and drinks. It was discovered during the 1960s and is usually sold in the form of odourless white crystals. It is used extensively in commercially produced foods including boiled sweets, chocolate, cough sweets and chewing gum. It can also be found as an ingredient in a variety of baked goods and it is often used in sugar-free sweets as it doesn’t crystallise and can therefore be used to preserve the smooth texture.
Isomalt was developed as a way to increase the sweetness of foods without the downsides of using sugar. It does not spike blood sugar or provoke the same insulin response as sugar and it does not contribute to tooth decay. It is a sugar alcohol that has around half the calories of sugar. It is often blended with other sweeteners, such as sucralose, to create sweetness levels similar to that of sugar.
Isomalt in sugar sculpture
Sugar sculpting has been a popular way to combine art and food as far back as the 14th century when they were often prepared as centrepieces for grand feasts. Modern sugar sculptures are often commissioned for specific events, although there are also national and international competitions where sculptors can show off their skills. As cake decorating has evolved and specialist utensils have been designed, expectations of what a cake should look like have become more elaborate. This has also spread into the world of sugar sculpture and the two are often combined to make truly impressive creations.
Isomalt is a popular choice for sculpting, largely because of its similarities to sugar, but chiefly for the areas in which they differ. Isomalt is created from regular sugar but it takes on a lot of new and useful properties during the extraction process. Isomalt doesn’t caramelise, meaning that it can be heated to high temperatures without getting the golden brown colour that sugar does. This makes it ideal for use in situations where a clear sugar creation is needed.
This is ideal for sugar sculptors who rely on their in-depth knowledge of the various different properties of different types of sugar in order to bring their ideas to life. Isomalt is a popular choice for sculpting as it can be used for clear features such as windows and gemstones. It is also very versatile and can be reliably moulded when warm into a variety of shapes.
When cooled, isomalt is strong and can be easily extracted from silicone moulds. Many cake decorators use disposable utensils and equipment when working with isomalt because it is extremely sticky once heated. However, it doesn’t melt until it’s heated to 145 degrees centigrade,
Isomalt is very soluble at a rate that increases as the temperature rises, but it doesn’t absorb moisture and is therefore very stable. Isomalt enhances the flavours of whatever it is combined with, making it ideal to bring out the taste of more delicate ingredients.
Isomalt is so similar to sugar that products made with isomalt are almost indistinguishable from those made with sugar in terms of their texture and appearance. It can take flavouring and colouring well, and because it doesn’t change hue at high temperatures, it is a great way to get consistent results when trying to achieve a particular shade.
Isomalt is suitable for vegetarians and that makes it an ideal choice for a number of sweets. It can be used to make everything from the most elaborate sugar creations to simple spun sugar, all crystal clear and with just half the calories of regular sugar.