Invertase is one of the secret ingredients in the candy-making industry. It is an enzyme that is commonly used to make candy liquid centers, chocolate-covered cherries, fondant candies, creme eggs, and other cordials. Invertase is usually derived from yeast, either from bread factories or beer breweries. It is sold either as a clear liquid or as a powder that can be dissolved in water.
- Origins: Discovered by chemists
- Commonly Found: Naturally synthesized by bees
- Preparation: Creates liquid centers in candies
What Is Invertase?
Invertase is an enzyme. When added to sucrose (table sugar) or foods that include sucrose, invertase splits the sugar into its component parts of glucose and fructose. It is commonly called "invert sugar" or "inverted sugar syrup." Inverted sugar is frequently used in commercial baking and candy recipes because it keeps baked goods moist for longer periods of time.
Chemists during the 1800s were studying the effect of yeast on sugar and realized that before the sugar began fermenting, it changed form. After much research, the chemists isolated the enzyme that caused this: invertase. By the year 1900, the process for deriving invertase from yeast was commonly used. Over the course of the next 20 plus years, chemists found many uses for invertase, most importantly in candy-making.
When invertase is added to sugar candy recipes, like fondant candy fillings, it gradually liquefies the fondant. This is one way of producing the liquid center in candies like cherry cordials. The reaction takes a few days to occur, so there is a waiting period when making liquid centers with invertase. This enzyme also makes fondant appear smoother.
Although it sounds like something made in a lab, invertase is a part of many different natural processes. Besides bees, we actually have our own supply of invertase as part of our saliva.
How to Cook With Invertase
The exact amount of invertase needed depends on many factors. These include the strength and preparation of the invertase, the temperature of the environment, and the recipe itself. As a very general rule, add between 1/4 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon of invertase per pound of fondant. Once you make your candy creation, the invertase needs time to break down the sucrose and turn it into liquid. If you are using it for candy making purposes, plan ahead. The invertase needs a few days to at least a week in storage to make the solid turn into a liquid.
There are not really any known substitutions for invertase. Depending on what you are making, there may be some workaround solutions. For example, if you are making chocolate-covered cherries, you can omit the invertase. The taste won't be affected, but the centers of the cherries will not liquify. As an alternative, you can soak the cherries in alcohol, like brandy, before making the candy. This will make a liquid center after the candy sits for about a week.
Recipes that include invertase are candies and decadent baked goods. Try these:
Where to Buy Invertase
Since invertase is commonly used in baking and candy making, the best place to look for it is in well-stocked cake decorating and candy supply stores. It is also found on many candy supply websites. It is a liquid product sold in small bottles. A two-ounce bottle costs about $5. Since you will likely use a small amount for home baking needs, there is no need to purchase a larger bottle.
The invertase itself should be stored in the refrigerator for longevity. Cold temperatures slow the invertase reaction. Candies with invertase should be stored at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator for the best and fastest results. If the candies are kept cool, the invertase cannot break down the sucrose and the liquification process will not occur (or will take much longer).
Nutrition and Benefits
For most people, the small quantities of invertase you ingest in candies are completely safe. However, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to it. Invertase is naturally found in honey; it has been shown to naturally boost the immune system and can help with digestion and gut health.