What is Isomalt and How to Cook It

Isomalt is a sugar substitute commonly used by sugar artists to create sugar sculptures, cake toppers, gems and other cake decorations.It is preferred for sugar work over regular granular sugar because it holds up better in heat and humidity. An isomalt piece can last for years if properly stored. It is derived from beets and commonly used as a sugar substitute in dietetic and diabetic foods because it is a sugar alcohol and will not elevate one’s sugar level when consumed. It is sold in crystal form; it is a white powder with granules that are larger than regular sugar. You won’t find it sold in the grocery store, but you can order it online or purchase at cake decorating supply stores. Many people are intimidated about working with Isomalt because they don’t know how to cook it. If this description fits you, you can also buy it pre-cooked and then just heat it in a heat-proof container in the microwave at 30 second intervals until it melts.

Cooking Isomalt

You will only need 2 ingredients to cook clear Isomalt : Isomalt and water. For every cup of Isomalt you cook, the water volume will be approximately 1/8. For example, if you cook 1 cup of Isomalt, you will add 1/8 cup of water.

1. Place the Isomalt in a saucepan over medium heat. isomalt crystals
2. Allow the Isomalt crystals to melt without stirring them. You can use a metal spatula to push unmelted crystals into melted areas and to scrape sugar down from the sides of the pan, but don’t stir.
3.Allow the Isomalt to come to a boil and remove from heat. The Isomalt will be very bubbly. Shut the heat off at this point. isomalt coming to a boil
4. Hold the saucepan off of the heat until the bubbles settle down. 
5. Place the saucepan back down on the burner and stir in the water, a little at a time. Steam will come off of the sugar as the water is now cooling it down. If you are coloring the Isomalt, stir the food coloring in at this point. Your Isomalt will have air bubbles in it which are undesirable.

There are 3 different ways you can deal with the air bubbles. 1. Work with a blow torch - passing a low flame from a blow torch over molded pieces will remove the air bubbles which tend to rise to the surface of your molded sugar pieces. If the molded piece has a lot of detail, you have to be very careful not to apply too much heat as you will melt away the details. 2. Heating in the oven - After cooking the isomalt as indicated above, you can reduce the amount of air bubbles in the hot sugar by placing it in the oven at 265 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. 3. Edible Lacquer - Spray your molded sugar pieces with chocolate lacquer. This will give them back the shine the air bubbles take away and stop the sugar from being sticky. (In humid weather, isomalt can be very sticky).

Molding Isomalt

 Isomalt behaves similarly to chocolate; the hotter it is, the thinner it is. As it cools, it becomes thicker. If you pour it when it’s really hot, it will spread out more easily. Sometimes this is desirable but when filling certain silicone molds, there are times when a higher surface tension (from cooler Isomalt) is preferable so the Isomalt does not run out of the edges of the molds.

This is isomalt tinted pink and molded in a silicone mold from Marvelous Molds. Beneath the sugar piece is the silicone mat from Ateco. molded isomalt

Isomalt work surface

A silicone mat can tolerate the high temperatures of hot sugar. Don’t try pouring Isomalt on plastic mats as they will melt. Ateco makes a silicone mat that is ideal. As you work with the sugar, you will find you will have to reheat it when it gets too cool to pour. You can reheat it in the microwave on high heat at 30 second intervals until it melts. Don’t try to heat it for several minutes at a time or you might find you’ve burned the sugar and need to discard it. Any leftover Isomalt can be poured on the silicone mat, left to cool and wrapped up in plastic wrap. When you want to use it again, it’s already cooked, so it can just be reheated in the microwave. If you would like to take blown and pulled sugar classes, I can recommend 3 personal friends of mine who are also well-known sugar artists: Julie Bashore, Sugarartschool.com, Peggy Tucker, CMSA, SchoolofCakeology.com and Sidney Galpern of SimiCakes.com.

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