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Sugar Art: Isomalt Questions

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

I am new to this site and i have searched it for some answers regarding some questions I have about Isomalt but have not found them. (Excuse me if this thread of answers have been posted before...)

I am brand new to Isomalt (I am using Decomalt) and I have tried using it the past two nights to little avail. I have poured it over pastillage and into my silicone molds but it has not hardened completely.

I have a 3 part decomalt to one part water recipe (from the instructions on the decomalt bin). I heat it slowly at first and then bring to a boil until it reaches 32o F at which point I turn off the stove. I have not been stirring much as I heard this is not good and can result in stickiness. After i turn the stove off I add some white gel coloring, just enough to make it opaque and then i stir for a few seconds. I either pour stright away if it is going into a silicone mold or wait a minute and pour onto my pastillage.

The results three times running have been the same--it hardens but remains just slightly sticky. What could I be doing wrong? How long does Isomalt take to fully cure and does anyone have experience molding with isomalt so I can bounce some more questions off the group!?

I am a fine artist, not a professional chef, so any and all answers are welcome.

post #2 of 12
I keep finding your posts, so here are some more answers.

Firstly I am answering all your questions in degrees celcius - You can do the conversions yourself. I have an aversion to imperial measurements (see below!)

Ok, here we go.

Your 3:1 ratio of isomalt/decomalt (from here on in referred to as isomalt) to water is sufficient, however it is not a mandatory rule. You only need enough water to "wet" the isomalt to the consistency of wet sand. If you add too much water and the batch takes too long to cook, the isomalt will release its water and become brittle to use. In humid locations you should cook the isomalt from a dry state without using water. Remember - it caramelises at over 200 degrees celcius so if you are diligent you are not going to burn it.

Next - add your colour - whatever it may be at around 140 degrees celcius. You add colour at this stage so there is sufficient time in the cooking process to drive off the moisture from the colour.

Finally - cook the isomalt to 170 degrees celcius, then plunge the pan into cold water to stop the cooking, let it "stand" on a cloth for a few minutes to settle so you don't pour in bubbles from the cooking process into your casting.

It sounds to me that because you are adding the colour at the final stage of the cooking process that the moisture from the white gel is not being "driven off" evaporated. If this is the case the moisture will make the sugar sticky even though it sets.

Store all your pieces in airtight containers with a de-humidifying agent.

Isomalt will harden as soon as it goes cold and is usually warmed to around 80-90 degrees celcius to work with it - make it pliable to manipulate.

P.S My experience is I have been using it for 9 years, my last batch I used for sugarwork was 40kg (no typo!)
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi There,

Thank you for taking the time to advise me about the isomalt. You are correct in assuming I added the color after it came to the hard crack phase-which I read to be 160C-which is when i took it off the burner as well. I was thinking that might be the issue and was about to try a batch without color.

I will let you know how it turns out. It is a rather humid day here in Northern California so i will wait for it to subside before trying one more time.

It is interesting that you also cook the isomalt a full 20 degrees (to 340F or 170C) longer than what I read online, so I will try this as well.

If you have any tips on molding with isomalt, as in filling a two part mold, I would love to hear about it!

post #4 of 12
What you need to remember is that the higher you cook the isomalt the harder it becomes.

160 degrees celcius is sufficient for blowing or pulling smaller items.

For casting, or blowing/pulling larger items I would be inclined to go to 170 or 175 degrees celcius for added strength - this all depends on what you are doing.

Tips for moulding isomalt - I am not sure what you plan to do.

For using 2 part molds be sure the mold is not too cold so you can "slush" the isomalt around, also be sure the "bottleneck" or "opening" is sufficient for air to escape, and finally you should consider a sprue hole or 2 when making your mold to help air escape and the isomalt circulate to all parts of the mold.

Good luck.
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I did not know isomalt became harder with higher heats, but i am about to see how all of your advice works out as i plan to retry this afternoon.

I am planning-long term goal- to do a two part mold of a two foot buddha. Short term I am going to make a small two part mold of a small bird statue which is about 30 cm high. My assumption is that pouring the liquid in through the hole is the way to go rather than pouring two parts and then adhering.

I am primarily learning about sugar molding from the internet and the new sugar casting book that was recently put out...forgot the name and it is not in front of me. It is a spiral bound book and refers a lot to the Chicago school of mold making.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Update on Sundays experiments in isomalt:

It didn't go so well for experiment #3:

The set isomalt is still somewhat sticky, by sticky I mean you can see a fingerprint if you touch it.

Also I reheated the batch on the stove slightly and it went slightly tan, which means i either carmelized the isomalt or the color burnt?

-it is a cool day, no humidity
-I added the coloring at 290F (140C)
-let it cook to 340F (170C)
-I DID NOT plunge into cold water because i forgot this step (!)
-I poured my first mold
-reheated and poured onto my pastillage bowl the leftover isomalt (at which point it was no longer white but slightly tan!

The problems encountered:
-few hours later it has that same sticky feel.
-the tan coloring in the 2nd pour (it should be opaque white)

Tonight I am going to try all of this and not add color as now i am suspecting this might be the culprit? Also, i will plunge in cold water and let the bubbles settle.

I have decided my candy thermometer is awful as well and would appreciate a recommendation.

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

It's the coloring!

Experiment #4 was a Success!

This time I plunged the pan in cold water and DID NOT add the coloring.

I know it was previously suggested that I not use gel food coloring. Well to my dismay, this does seem to be the reason my isomalt has remained sticky.

Vegetable gum is one of the ingredients, which makes me think that may have something to do with it.

What I don't understand is that I have used this exact same product when making cane sugar candy and it never produced product that was slightly sticky.

Can anyone tell me why this happened and what alternative product I might use to color my isomalt opaque white?

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Sticky again...

After the last try it did not seem sticky (leave fingerprints) but a couple of hours later and now the next morning all are sticky again, and no humidity in the air.

Interesting to note: the very first piece I made a few days ago has now become non sticky and hard as I would expect it to be. I am not sure what to think now.

Could the decomalt be my problem?
post #9 of 12
It's sugarwork, there is always some humidity in the air, it is going to get sticky eventually.

You should lacquer all your pieces asap. Use food lacquer or shellac.

I would never leave a piece out in the open air not lacquered for a couple of hours
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
What food lacquer do you use? That is good advice. I have had subsequent successes and failures since I last wrote. Primarily my failures still have to do when i use the white coloring.

I also got a professional grade thermometer which is making my life easier and more accurate i think!
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
One other question I have: I understand that you can reheat Isomalt after it has hardened. However, in several instances my clear isomalt will have a yellowish tinge which i assume means I carmelized the isomalt.

How often can you reheat isomalt and not have it carmelize?

My one assumption is that I am

a: not correct in reusing the same pan (with some leftovers in it) when I make a new batch of isomalt--meaning the leftover isomalt from the last batch is turning the whole new batch off

b: reheating too many times on the stovetop

any advice appreciated!
post #12 of 12

I've used confectioner's glaze/lacquer on my sugar flowers to preserve (from humidity) their colors and overal forms, but I never thought about glazing my isomalt pieces. I gave it a try and all I can say is WOW! Thank you so much for sharing!

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