Isomalt is a sugar substitute created from real sugar that has been made from beets. It is an ingredient that is not familiar to most people unless they are cake decorators or in food manufacturing. While not as sweet as sugar, it can be blended with other sugar substitute sweeteners like sucralose to increase the sweetness. Isomalt is used in sugar-free candy creation and sugar sculpture. Isomalt needs to be heated to be molded, shaped, or used for decoration.
What Is Isomalt?
Isomalt is a sugar-free sweetener discovered during the 1960s. It is white, crystalline, and odorless. Beyond use by baking experts for decorations, isomalt is a key ingredient in many factory-produced foods like hard candies, chewing gum, chocolates, baked goods, and cough drops. Isomalt can be heated without losing its sweetness or changing color. It's useful in commercially made products that are boiled, baked, or heated.
Isomalt will not caramelize when heat is applied to it the way sugar does and it won't take on that light-brown to yellow "caramel" hue. This makes it a very good medium to create great design elements for cakes that need to have a clear color. Gemstones, windows for gingerbread houses, and glamorous sparkling mosaics are just a few elements that can be made using isomalt.
Isomalt also can be sculpted or molded into pretty much any shape. It is important to use molds that can withstand very high heat and avoid plastic molds that can distort or even melt under heat. You also must take special care to work carefully and safely with this medium to avoid burns. Isomalt is sticky and hard to remove when it's hot. It's not something you want stuck to your skin and can cause serious burns.
How to Cook With Isomalt
Preparing the isomalt to make design elements is different depending on which form you are starting with at the beginning. If you are using the granule form the process will be very similar to creating sugar work and the same care needs to be taken to avoid issues.
Try to work in a low humidity area and use a candy thermometer to track the temperature of the simmering liquid. Remove any impurities or foam that forms on top of the liquid so your finished product is clear and as close to perfect as possible.
If you are using ready-to-use isomalt sticks you can simply place the desired amount and color into a silicone container and microwave the sticks a few seconds at a time, stirring until they have melted completely.
The best molds to use for creating gems or other elements are made of silicone or designed specifically for hard card making use. Make sure you spray your molds with vegetable spray before pouring the very hot melted isomalt into the design or it still may stick and ruin all your hard work.
How to Use Isomalt in Molds
Pour the isomalt into the mold evenly or use a toothpick or thin dowel to fill very small molds. After filling, wait until the isomalt is cool and pop the design out of the mold. Using toothpicks or wooden dowels makes clean up much easier. Isomalt is very sticky and hard to remove from anything it touches. Throw away whatever tools are disposable.
Cooled isomalt will pop right out of silicone, but if you do not have silicone tools simply put a large pot of simmering water on the stove and drop your tools into the water to melt off the isomalt.
What Does It Taste Like
Isomalt is sweet and tastes like sugar. Since it's included in commercially made products, it's not something you would taste on its own, but is there to provide sweetness. The body does not actually digest isomalt. It literally passes right through, so consuming a very large quantity can cause a stomach ache.
Since isomalt is a sugar substitute, sugar can be used instead of isomalt. For decorations, candies made with sugar, water, and corn syrup can be used. Another option is to skip isomalt-based decorations and use pre-made edible or non-edible decorations.
This ingredient is used in baking decorations. It requires advanced techniques and is only recommended for the home cook that is ready for complicated decorations, as in the following recipe. We recommend that the user experiment with similar applications.
Where to Buy Isomalt
Isomalt can be purchased online, but it can also be found in a local kitchen or baking supply stores. It comes in several forms such as isomalt granules (which need to be mixed with distilled water) or isomalt sticks which are ready to use and can be found in clear form or an assortment of colors.
After your tools are clean and the created design elements are cooled you should store them in silicone packets. Humidity and time can turn your pieces cloudy and sticky if they aren't stored correctly. This will ruin the clear sparkly effect you probably wish to achieve. Avoid using these types of sugar decorations for cakes that are intended for occasions where there's likely to be humid, hot summer weather.