Isomalt is a sugar substitute used in making hard candy and sugar art. It is made from beet root and has half the calories of regular sugar. Isomalt can also be used in baking when sugar-free goods are needed. When replacing sugar in recipes with isomalt, use a ratio of 1:1. Like with many sugar substitutes, consumption of isomalt in large amounts can cause gastric distress and should only be consumed in small quantities. Along with cooked sugar applications and baking, isomalt is used as an additive in many products to help prolong the shelf life and as a sweetener in some toothpaste.
Isomalt is great to use when making cast, blown, or pulled sugar art. It has many properties that make it more ideal than using regular granulated sugar. Isomalt does not caramelize like sugar or yellow like cooked sugar does. Therefor, isomalt produces a much more clear product than granulated sugar. This is especially important when clear sugar pieces are needed. Isomalt stays pliable longer than sugar which is necessary when you are pulling and blowing sugar. Even though the baking replacement ratio for isomalt and sugar is 1:1, it is not so when boiling isomalt. If the isomalt does not have cooking instructions on the back of the package, find a recipe specifically for isomalt (like the recipe below), as isomalt must be cooked to a higher temperature than granulated sugar.
CKSA sells 3 different forms of isomalt. All forms are suitable for using in cast, blown, or pulled sugar decorating techniques.
- Isomalt Crystals- white granules must be cooked in order to be used, can be colored and flavored.
- Isomalt Sticks- pre-cooked, unflavored sticks of isomalt, many colors available including white and clear, can be melted in the microwave
- Venuance Pearls- small beads of pre-cooked isomalt made for easy softening under a heat lamp, can also be melted down in microwave, primary colors plus clear available, different colored pearls can be melted together to create additional colors
When working with isomalt it is important to have some basic tools on hand. Blown and pulled sugar works require more specialized equipment like a heat lamp and air pumps. If making isomalt from the powdered form, it is essential that you have a candy thermometer. If the isomalt isn’t heated to the correct temperature, it may not be the right consistency to work with, so be sure to test your thermometer before each use. Also silicone mats, spatulas, and measuring cups or baking cups are all nice to use when working with isomalt as it does not stick to the silicone. Venuance pearls and broken isomalt sticks can be melted directly inside silicone cupcake cups or measuring cups and then poured directly into molds. Casting or molding pieces of isomalt require special molds. Regular plastic candy molds will melt from the heat so be sure to use molds made of heat-safe silicone, plastic, or metal. Anytime you will be handling hot isomalt, wear food safe latex gloves to protect your hands.
Recipe and Instructions for Cooking Isomalt (Taken with permission from Vi Whittington’s book, Cooked Sugar Art)
- 2 cups isomalt
- 1/2 cup distilled water
- food coloring (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon flavoring (optional)
In a heavy saucepan, whisk water into isomalt. Heat on medium low and stop stirring for the rest of the process. When mixture becomes clear, skim off foam with a strainer. Dip a clean brush into water and gently brush the inside perimeter of the saucepan with the wet brush, slightly above the boiling sugar. Continue skimming the foam and washing down the sides of the saucepan until the syrup is completely clear. Place thermometer in the pan. When temperature reaches 280°, food coloring can be added. Continue cooking on medium heat to 340°. immediately remove pan from stove and plunge into cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking process. Gently stir in flavor. Cover for two minutes to be sure the flavor is infused into the syrup.
*To clean the pan, fill it half full with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and cover until syrup has dissolved.
Although isomalt has a higher resistance to humidity, finished pieces can still absorb some water and become sticky or tacky. Be sure to keep pieces sealed in an airtight container. Adding a couple of silica gel packets into the container can also help to keep humidity down. Unused isomalt can be stored in airtight containers for up to 2 years. If too much isomalt was melted (or made if using recipe), you can pour it into puddles on a silicone mat, let harden and remelt at a later time.
Here are some cakes decorated with isomalt pieces:
**to learn how to make edible jewels using isomalt, refer to How-To Make Edible Jewels