Fun With Isomalt

Isomaltcroquant1

I've been hearing for awhile about this product called isomalt, which is a modified sugar. It has the interesting property that it can melt and form into thin sheets like caramel without turning brown. It is only about half as sweet as table sugar too, so it is easier to use in savory applications.

Modernist cuisine wizards can make isomalt into paper thin vessels filled with liquids, and I had hoped to make a sort of creme brulee capsule at some point. But for my first foray, I thought I would make some simple croquants (think: peanut brittle) with various spice mixtures. The idea would be to garnish a dish with them, allowing the eater to snack on them directly or crumble over a dish.

You can see the results above and below. The top one has black mustard, fennel, and coriander seeds, suitable for use with an upscale Indian presentation. You don't need to toast the seeds in advance because they cook in the oven along with the isomalt. In the future I'd use less mustard because the flavor was a bit overwhelming.

In the pictures below I tried different flavors and forming three dimensional ribbons.  The one in the upper left is sesame and Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) salt, and the one in the upper right has Japanese chili powder, black sesame, and pink Hawaiian salt.

The basic technique is:

  1. melt the isomalt in a saucepan to 260 degrees F. while stirring as little as possible
  2. pour out onto a silpat lined baking sheet and let cool – at this point you will have a thick, hard sheet of candy glass
  3. break into manageable chunks and grind to a powder. I used a coffee grinder.
  4. on a fresh silpat, create a stencil of the shape you want. I just laid down two chopsticks to form a rectangle
  5. sift the isomalt powder into the stencil. you can play with how thick or thin a layer to use.
  6. add the seeds, salts, or other flavorings
  7. melt in a 300 degree F. oven
  8. as soon as it turns clear, remove from oven
  9. (this is where it gets dicey) let it cool just a few seconds and then VERY CAREFULLY peel the shape off the mat, trying to neither burn yourself nor destroy the shape. Then, working quickly, apply any twists or shaping you want and set on a cool plate. If it cools before you can shape, try a very brief reheating.

There seem to be a whole host of more advanced techniques to try, including grinding in spices or other seasonings with the powder, adding some table sugar, doing a much more lacy, thin sprinkle, forming tubes or spheres, spinning, etc. I'll let you know if I have any success with them!

If you'd like to experiment yourself, you can purchase isomalt powder from ChefShop.com.

Isomaltcroquant2

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Sunday, January 20th, 2008 in Experiments, Vegan or Modifiable.

12 Responses to “Fun With Isomalt”

  1. January 20, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    Love this idea! I definitely want to find some isomalt to play around with.

  2. January 20, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    These look so cool! They could go perfectly with a not-so-spicy soup. I wish I had a chemistry set like that:)

  3. January 20, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    This has so many possible applications. I love this – thanks for sharing!

  4. Jeffje
    January 20, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    isomalt is used a lot in the pastry kitchen because it’s less hygroscopic (water-absorbing) than ordinary table sugar. Albert Adria uses this property to make “hummingbirds” with heads made out of liquid-filled isomalt.

    try putting a ring mold down on a silpat, then pouring a little isomalt caramel inside. once it’s cooled slightly, you can slowly pull the ring mold up, making a conical bell of isomalt. or, before pulling it up, put a little something (e.g., a hazelnut) on top of the caramel to encase it in the sugar.

  5. January 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    Very interesting… thank you for sharing. I must look for this isomalt :)

  6. January 21, 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    That is so cool! I had never heard of it before…oh what fun I can have.

    I just came across your blog today, lovely to see another Seattle food blogger. I am very new, but just wanted to say hello!

  7. January 22, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    That top one came out beautifully – thanks for thinking up such a great idea!

  8. February 15, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Glad to see someone trying this kind of thing at home. I definitly want to try something like this. Thanks for the instructions!

  9. Erin
    October 10, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    I like the ideas here…something else to try when using isomalt. Heat oven to 300 F. Using a silicone mat on a sheet tray sprinkle isomalt in any pattern you want. Then sprinkle your food coloring. The Isomalt will not melt where you have coloring giving you a very cool design. When it comes out of the oven, let cool for about 2 min till it starts to harden then use your silicone mat and shape it into a very cool table certerpiece that.

  10. Mary C. Desmond
    September 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    All is fine and good, but WHERE IN THE WORLD can you buy Isomalt. I have found no outlets about anywhere and I will NOT buy it on the internet unless there is some phone number for my credit card or if an outfit will take checks.

    Please help me to find this ingredient!

    Mary C. Desmond

  11. Michael Natkin
    September 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Hey Mary – well, if you won’t buy on the internet, it is hard for me to be
    of much help. I personally order products online all the time without any
    problems. You might try contacting a professional pastry supply in your
    area, they probably have it but maybe only in large quantities.

  12. Jenny
    February 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I’ve not seen isomalt with spices before. Great concept.

    We make ready-to-melt isomalt for cake decorators and pastry chefs. Check us out at http://www.cakeplay.com!

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