What is it?
Maltodextrin is a highly processed white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch or wheat. It is broken down in such a way that the sugar content drops to less than 20% meaning that it can be used as a sugar substitute without the taste of sugar. It is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the food processing industry, where it is used as a bulking agent or flavour carrier.As the product is not sweet it can be used as a replacement for sugar in a savoury ice cream, sorbet or inused in molecular gastronomy by turning fats like butter into a powderor for everyday use in protein powders.
Maltodextrin has no nutritional value. However, it is a very easy-to-digest carbohydrate and can provide energy rapidly. Due to this, manufacturers add this powder to many sports drinks and snacks. It has an even higher glycemic index (GI) than table sugar. This means that maltodextrin can cause a sharp increase, or spike, in people’s blood sugar shortly after they eat foods that contain it. A spike in blood glucose can be particularly dangerous for people with diabetes or insulin resistance
How is it made?
Maltodextrin is made through a process called hydrolosis, a chemical process involving the addition of water and enzymes or acids to cut starch molecules into smaller pieces. The the starchy carbohydrate once broken into its short chained sugars, are spray-dried forming a white hydroscopic powder. This resulting powder is water soluble and has a neutral taste. The common thoughts on maltodextrin are that it is not suitable for coeliacs as it has the word ‘malt’ in it, but studies show that the process to make the powder removes all protein components thus making it gluten free. However, there can always be traces found, so severe gluten allergies should be warned and inscribed on packaging containing it.
How do I use it?
When maltodextrin is mixed with fat, it changes to a powder. Consequently, as maltodextrin is soluble in water, flavoured oils that have been changed to a powder changes back to an oil in the mouth. Coming from a natural source, it ranges from nearly flavourless to fairly sweet without any odour. In molecular gastronomy, it can be used both as a thickener and a stabilizer for sauces and dressings, for encapsulation and as a sweetener. In many cases, it is also used as an aroma carrier due to its capacity to absorb oil. It is a fun addition to a complex pastry dish as it adds a hidden flavour, in a different texture.
Always store maltodextrin in an air tight container in a dry place to extend shelf life.