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Isomalt and Other Sugar Decor


Matthew Kirshner
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Hey everyone,

 

  I have been wondering about this topic for a while now.  Years ago i use to use isomalt and other forms of sugar decor for a platted desserts, and i always wondering why some chefs use it.  I know yes isomalt and other types of pulled sugar are edible but when I see plates come back into the kitchen, half ate the décor while rest didn’t bother.  I am curious to know if anyone does explain to waitstaff or to the customer themselves to say “Yes you can eat that”. 

 

I only ask because I do remember for certain plates it help “jazzed” it up, and I would like to get back into it.  Any thoughts?

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Perhaps this is why

 

Isomalt is a sugar substitute, a type of sugar alcohol, used primarily for its sugar-like physical properties. It has only a small impact on blood sugar levels and does not promote tooth decay, i.e. is toothfriendly. Its energy value is 2 kcal/g, half that of sugars.[1] However, like most sugar alcohols, it carries a risk of gastric distress, including flatulence and diarrhea, when consumed in large quantities. (Wikipedia)

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Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Perhaps this is why

 

Isomalt is a sugar substitute, a type of sugar alcohol, used primarily for its sugar-like physical properties. It has only a small impact on blood sugar levels and does not promote tooth decay, i.e. is toothfriendly. Its energy value is 2 kcal/g, half that of sugars.[1] However, like most sugar alcohols, it carries a risk of gastric distress, including flatulence and diarrhea, when consumed in large quantities. (Wikipedia)

I think it's much more simple than that. I think most just view it as what it is... decoration. Kinda like the ol' parsley sprig on the side of the plate. The fact that it's edible may not even cross their mind. Telling them it's edible may encourage some but let's be honest, a piece of pulled sugar or isomalt isn't really all that wonderful a thing to eat anyway. I've always assumed when using them that they were there for the look. If somebody wanted to eat it, great, but I didn't expect them to.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I agree with Tri2Cook.  Sugar garnishes can be fun for the pastry chef to make and can look cool, and I do appreciate having only edible garnishes on the plate, but there is only so much pulled sugar people want to eat.  If it is very thin and delicate or flavored it seems more worth eating, but a slab of isomalt or a large bow or flower is way too much plain sugar to eat at once.

 

I think if you want to play with sugar and not feel like your time is wasted when it doesn't get eaten, you should aim to give the sugar pieces some flavor and make them small and integrated as a component in the dessert.  Like a single flower petal flavored with rose, or a blown sugar cherry that actually tastes like cherry or is filled with something (coulis? ganache?), then have the servers include it in their description when they present the dish.  I had a bite at el Bulli that was blown sugar filled with some kind of pistachio oil IIRC.  You had to eat it in one bite.  It was intense and amazing.

Edited by pastrygirl (log)
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I agree with Tri2Cook.  Sugar garnishes can be fun for the pastry chef to make and can look cool, and I do appreciate having only edible garnishes on the plate, but there is only so much pulled sugar people want to eat.  If it is very thin and delicate or flavored it seems more worth eating, but a slab of isomalt or a large bow or flower is way too much plain sugar to eat at once.

 

I think if you want to play with sugar and not feel like your time is wasted when it doesn't get eaten, you should aim to give the sugar pieces some flavor and make them small and integrated as a component in the dessert.  Like a single flower petal flavored with rose, or a blown sugar cherry that actually tastes like cherry or is filled with something (coulis? ganache?), then have the servers include it in their description when they present the dish.  I had a bite at el Bulli that was blown sugar filled with some kind of pistachio oil IIRC.  You had to eat it in one bite.  It was intense and amazing.

I had the same bite at E.B. - but it wasn't blown sugar. The oil is dropped through a film of hot sugar using a small ring mold. The sugar flows around the oil and encapsulates it. The sugar is actually a combination of sugar, fondant and isomalt (according to the E.B. book).

ETA: I think it was pumpkin seed oil, not pistachio - but I'd have to check the book tonight when I get home to be sure if anyone cares.

Edited by KennethT (log)
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KennethT, wow, 2005?  You're right, it was pumpkin seed.  Caramelo de aceite de calabaza.  That was one of the bites I didn't get a picture of. 

 

Marcel was trying to do that technique with the ring mold one one of the finales on Top Chef, but it didn't work out for him.

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KennethT, wow, 2005?  You're right, it was pumpkin seed.  Caramelo de aceite de calabaza.  That was one of the bites I didn't get a picture of. 

 

Marcel was trying to do that technique with the ring mold one one of the finales on Top Chef, but it didn't work out for him.

I've done it before (not with pumpkin oil, but with roasted sesame oil cut with grapeseed oil since the sesame was so strong) - it's not that difficult, but it needs some time and patience to get the viscosity of the melted sugar mixture just right by finely adjusting the temperature. I'm sure the EB guys, after doing lots of them, could tell by eye when the consistency was right.
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  • 2 weeks later...

I also agree with Tri2Cook, but I also think that people might think that it would be too hard to eat because it would stick in their teeth-kind of like lollipops if you bite them right away. LOL. I made a cake once covered with flavored isomalt tiles. I took so much time deciding how to flavor them, and of course, not one tile was eaten! "Parsley sprig" of pastry to be sure!!

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