Maltodextrin is an unsweet sugar that can be flavored in many different ways and then sprinkled over any dish; there are endless possibilities in molecular gastronomy!
Maltodextrins are polysaccharides, which is to say, sugars. They are obtained through partial hydrolysis (or decomposition) of corn, wheat, potato or tapioca starch. In order to understand what maltodextrins are, one needs to understand how sugar is made from a molecular standpoint. The most simple sugar molecules, those directely assimilable by our body, are either called glucose molecules or dextrose molecules. They are obtained through the enzimatic decomposition of longuer sugar molecule chains, as it is the case during the digestive process. The indicator used to measure the hydrolysis degree of sugars is called ‘Dextrose Equivalent’ (DE). DE ranges from 0 to 100 where 0 corresponds to untransformed starch and 100 corresponds to simple dextrose molecules, which is to say, entirely hydrolysed sugar. On this scale, refined sugar of the type generally used in the kitchen occupies the 92 to 99 range. Syrups, such as corn syrup, have a DE between 20 and 91. Maltodextrins have a DE below 20, which is to say that they range between starch and syrups.
During the digestive process, maltodextrins are broken down into simple dextrose (or glucose) molecules so that they can be assimilated by the body.
For the industrial production of maltodextrins, starch hydrolysis is achieved through a solution containing enzymes. When the desired degree of hydrolysis is reached, enzymes are neutralysed by the addition of sulfites to the solution. The solution is then purified in order to keep only the maltodextrin, which is then dried.
Even though maltrodextrin is a sugar, it’s taste is only slightly sweet, and it is odorless. Maltodextrin dissolves easily into water, can absorbs a good quantity of oil and is easily digestible, among other properties. Moreover, it can be treated so that it can be used as an encapsulating or swelling agent.
Maltodextrin is a significant part of the content of powdered energy drinks used by athletes. It is also often used as filler in manufactured foods. Furthermore, its properties make it an excellent aroma carrier. This is mainly how it is used in creative cooking.
Maltodextrine is also a frequent excipient (non active agent) in pharmacology: it is used in the making of many drugs to which it provides desired properties such as taste, shape or solubility.
Creative cooking applications
Maltodextrin is mostly used in creative cooking as an aroma carrier. When a good quantity of maltodextrin is mixed with fatty ingredients such as hazelnut oil, bacon fat or melted chocolate for example, the maltodextrin absorbs this ingredient while retaining it’s powdered form. The result is a whole range of tasty powders that can be sprinkled over food preparations and dishes.
By varying proportions of maltodextrin and chosen ingredient, and by mixing less, tasty maltodextrin « chunks » can be made. Since maltodextrin is a sugar, the chunks can then be heated up in a pan in order to caramelize their exterior and make them crunchy.
Tips and tricks
Maltodextrin can be mixed with gelling agents in order to facilitate their dispersion in liquids. Gelatin soluble in cold water can thus be mixed with maltodextrin instead of powdered sugar so that the same solubility is reached with minimal added sweetness.