Maltodextrin is a fascinating ingredient that can turn oil into a paste or powder that melts in your mouth. Besides, making powders and pastes from maltodextrin is easy!
Maltodextrin has the interesting ability to absorb fats. Similar to how adding flour to water will result in a paste, maltodextrin first thickens, and then completely absorbs fats. In modernist cooking, chefs turn the paste or powder into oil nuggets, oil pastes, edible films and edible soil. The end result can have a great impact on food presentation and dining experience.
So what causes this eating amazement? Maltodextrin disappears quickly when it comes in contact with a small amount of moisture. When a food containing maltodextrin is put in your mouth the saliva dissolves the maltodextrin leaving behind only the fat. This change is felt in the diner's mouth, giving a fun surprise that the fat has gone back to its original flavorful form.
Maltodextrin has a naturally sweet flavor which, while subtle, is often used to replace sugar in recipes because it has fewer calories than sugar and is easily absorbed and digested by the body in the form of glucose.
Maltodextrin helps lock in aromas, making dishes more fragrant. It can also stabilize high-fat ingredients and help other components disperse by preventing clumping.
I also use maltodextrin to dust over marshmallows to keep them from separating without adding to much sweetness to the outside. I learned that from Shawn Gawle, the pastry chef at Saison, during a StarChefs demonstration.
The body digests maltodextrin as a simple carbohydrate; making it easy to convert it to quick energy. For this reason athletes love maltodextrin and it is a common ingredient in many sports drinks. In the pharmaceutical industry it is used as a binding agent when making pills. Beer brewers may combine a small amount of maltodextrin into kegs as they age in order to improve the mouthfeel of the resulting draught or ale.
You can buy tapioca maltodextrin several places. We highly recommend ModernistPantry.com, they have great service and are really good to work with (because of this, we do have an affiliate relationship with them), and they also sell the Texturas brand called Malto. You can also find tapioca maltodextrin at WillPowder and get larger quantities and bundles at ForTheGourmet.com.
Maltodextrin is commonly called N-Zorbit M, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Malto or Maltosec. It is a sweet polysaccharide and natural food additive manufactured from grain starch. In the United States it is mostly produced from corn, but it can also be made from rice, potatoes and tapioca. In Europe maltodextrin is commonly derived from wheat.
The starch goes through a process called partial hydrolysis, which uses water, enzymes and acids to create a water-soluble white powder. Interestingly, the partial hydrolysis method leaves maltodextrin with less than 20 percent sugar content.
Maltodextrin is very appealing to food manufacturers worldwide because it is easy and cheap to produce and does not significantly alter the flavor of the processed food. Whether or not you know it, each of us often eats maltodextrin! It is found in many types of commercial foods such as in canned fruit, snack food, cereal, pre-made desserts, instant pudding & soup mixes, sauces, salad dressings, meal replacement shakes, and sugar-free sweeteners like Splenda or Equal.
Maltodextrin easily mixes with a liquid at room temperature. Just combine the liquid fat with the maltodextrin in a bowl using a fork, spoon, or whisk. It is a pretty forgiving ingredient when making powders and pastes. It can be added in slowly until you have the texture you desire. As you mix the fat will be absorbed into the maltodextrin, thickening the fat and eventually creating a powder or paste.
There are many places to get fat from. Some of the most common are off the shelf oils such as olive oil, peanut oil, or other flavored oils. You can also render the fat from bacon, chicken, pork, duck, or other foods and turn that into a powder that will carry many of the same flavors.
The amount of maltodextrin needed depends on how much you want to thicken the fat and what type of fat you are thickening. Typically a 30% to 45% ratio, by weight, will be used to make pastes. For powders, a 45% to 60% ratio will be used.
Maltodextrin absorbs the fat almost instantly, so you can add it in smaller amounts and check the thickness of the fat periodically to make sure it's approaching the thickness you want.
Note: See How to Measure Modernist Ingredients for more information on ratios.
To create unlimited types of powders and pastes remember that you can infuse oils with many different flavors before turning them into a powder. You can cook garlic and red pepper flakes over low heat in olive oil for a spicy, roasted garlic olive oil. You can infuse oil with vanilla for a sweet powder.
A common technique for infusing oils with more mild ingredients, such as carrots or bell peppers, is to heat the ingredient in oil until it is soft and the oil is perfumed with the scent. Transfer the oil to a blender and blend until smooth. Run the oil through a chinois or cheesecloth to strain it. You can then turn the flavored oil into a paste or powder, or even just use it as is.
You can also make whipping siphon infusions. They are a quick and easy way to infuse oils with flavor.
For more information about infusing, you can check out my book, Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Infusions. It's full of great infusion recipes.
The options are truly unlimited!
Maltodextrin is an intriguing ingredient that can turn oil into a paste or powder right before your eyes. If you have a bowl of olive oil and whisk in 30% to 45% as much maltodextrin you'll create an olive oil paste that melts in your mouth.
Maltodextrin is a pretty forgiving ingredient when making powders and pastes. It can be added in slowly until you have the texture you desire. The amount used will also depend on the type of fat you are trying to thicken. Using a whisk or fork for the mixing will usually be good enough.
I often use oil pastes as a spread for bread or meats to add a rich and flavorful topping without the greasiness sometimes caused by liquid oil. You can also shape the paste, such as making balls or logs out of it.
Slowly whisk or stir the maltodextrin into the oil until it forms a thick paste that you can easily spread or form into balls. I usually start mixing with a whisk and end with a fork. Once it has thickened enough the paste will last in the refrigerator for several days.
Similar to the oil paste created in the previous section, if you up the maltodextrin to 45% to 60% you can make a light powder that dissolves on the tongue. Just stir or whisk in the maltodextrin to the oil until it forms a light powder. For finer powders you can push the resulting powder through a tamis or fine-meshed sieve.
Oil powder adds a great visual element to a dish and the mouthfeel and texture is truly unique. I'll often add a pile of powder to a piece of meat or fish as a garnish. For variety, you can change the texture of the oil powder to create crumbs or nuggets by heating it in a saucepan or baking it.
Slowly whisk or stir the maltodextrin into the oil until it becomes a powder or light paste, then put the mixture in a tamis or fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl. Push the mixture through then spoon it out to serve. The powder will last in the refrigerator for several days but might need to be pushed through the tamis again before using to fluff it up.