Many people the world over are looking towards low sugar diets. In some, it is because of ailments such as the metabolic condition of diabetes while in others it is a quest to reduce sugar intake. Many answers have come up as solutions to this problem, among them are xylitol, erythritol and isomalt. Isomalt is a very popular one as it is more pliable than others and works very well in sugar sculptures and shapes. Isomalt doesn’t easily burn like sucrose and is sometimes referred to as sugar glass. Isomalt is favoured by bakers and confectioners because it is easy to reheat even after cooling and hardening.
Isomalt is a very popular sugar substitute. Isomalt which is an alcohol sugar and is a popular substitute for glucose, sucrose and fructose because it does not affect the blood sugar levels. This makes it a great choice for people who are diabetic or for other reasons on a low sugar diet. Isomalt contains half the calories, 2 kcal per gram, that regular sucrose sugar does. Isomalt is widely used in the production of sugar-free candy and sweets. Isomalt does not crystallise as easily as sucrose or corn syrup. It is also used in the creation of sugar sculptures. Isomalt is made in a two-step process that involves turning sucrose into isomaltulose then a further process is applied that turns isomaltulose into isomaltose. It is odourless white and comes in granule or crystallised form. Isomalt has very little moisture, only 5%. Isomalt is sold in powder (granule) form or in block/stick (crystal) form. There are three methods to melt isomalt and which to choose is going to depend on the isomalt form you have and what you intend to use the isomalt in.
Isomalt melts really easily on the stove, there are a few important instructions you have to follow to get this right. The stove is most desirable if you have isomalt in granular or powder form. You will need a non-stick pan to execute this method properly. Make sure your pan’s non-stick coating is intact. Isomalt is as you can imagine a very sticky substance and if there are any gaps in the coating it will stick and possibly burn. The same can be said for any idea of using a pan that is not non-stick, your isomalt will almost certainly stick to the pan and burn. Now place isomalt in the pan and the pan on medium heat. One of the advantages of isomalt over sucrose is its low melting temperature so it melts well at medium heat without browning or burning. Slowly stir the isomalt as it starts to melt. The isomalt should melt completely in about 4 minutes if you used the granules. If you are forced to use crystal form isomalt you can but remember to crush the crystals first to help them melt quicker. If you’re going to add colour to it, the perfect time to do so is when the isomalt has melted completely.
Melting Isomalt in the Saucepan
There’s another stove top method of melting isomalt that uses a saucepan. It’s a little different from the non-stick pan method but can work just as well. First, you will need to prepare a metal dish of cold water and put a handful of ice in the metal dish. This will come in handy later but it’s a good idea to chill the water early. Now take a saucepan and mix 3 parts isomalt with one part water. Not the chilled water you prepared but room temperature water. It’s best to use a stainless steel saucepan and a stainless steel cooking spoon for this method. Also, be careful with your water source. If the water has extra chemicals in it such as hard water they may end up colouring your isomalt. What you should have in your saucepan is a mixture that looks like wet sand. Now place this on the stove on medium heat and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil you should turn the stove up to high. You may have to scrape some isomalt off the sides of the saucepan but make sure not to stir the isomalt mixture before it boils. Once you have turned the heat up place a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Make sure the ball of the thermometer is covered by the isomalt but not touching the bottom of the saucepan. When the mixture reaches 80 degrees Celsius it is ready for you to add food colouring if you are colouring it. Mix the colour in then allow to boil until it reaches 170 degrees. Now remove the saucepan from the stove and place the saucepan in the chilled water from earlier. Make sure none of the chilled water gets into the isomalt mixture. You will have the saucepan in this dish for 5 to 10 seconds to prevent any further temperature increase. You just want to stop the hissing sound. Your isomalt is ready to work with.
Melt Isomalt in the Microwave
If you want to melt your isomalt in the microwave you can do that too. All you will need is a microwave save bowl. If you are using sticks it’s best to break the sticks to ease the melting process in the microwave. Place the pieces in your microwave-safe container and space them out evenly so they melt evenly. Now place in the microwave on high setting in 20-second intervals. After each interval take the container out and stir the pieces of isomalt. You should stir your isomalt with a metal skewer or perhaps a whisk though this can get messy. Your isomalt will develop air bubbles as it melts and that is normal. Stirring continuously will work the air bubbles out of your isomalt. Expect 5 sticks to melt in about a minute or a minute and 20 seconds. You may need to repeat a few times to get the air bubbles out of the isomalt completely. Once this is done your isomalt is ready to use.
There are three different ways to melt your isomalt for all your applications. The microwave will give you the quickest method. You may find the saucepan method useful if you need to use your isomalt over a longer period as in the other methods it cools and hardens very quickly.