Maltodextrin is derived from starch from grains such as corn or
rice, tubers such as potatoes, or roots such as tapioca. This starch
is composed of long chains of sugar and is the plant’s food reserve.
Once the starch is extracted from the original product, it is hydrolyzed,
that is, degraded by enzymes. The process is virtually the same as
in starch degradation by enzymes in the digestive system.
Although the composition of maltodextrin is a blend of sugar, its
sweetening power is much weaker than that of syrups and table
sugar! 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, i.e., entirely hydrolyzed
sugar. On this scale, refined sugar of the type generally used in
cooking occupies the 92 to 99 range. Syrups, such as corn syrup,
have a DE between 20 and 91. Maltodextrins have a DE below 20,
so they range between starch and syrups.
In the food industry, maltodextrin is used to make soft, low-fat bakery
products. It also prevents the formation of crystals on the surface
of frozen foods and is used as a sugar substrate in sports drinks.
Besides the food sector, its uses are diverse. Some soaps use it
as an aroma carrier and texturizer. The pharmaceutical industry
uses its properties to reduce crystallization in syrups and as a
filler in tablets.
The use of maltodextrin has been further extended in molecular
gastronomy by absorbing fats to create flavorful powder. Since
maltodextrin is easily soluble in water – and therefore in the saliva
– once in the mouth, these powders melt and release their fat.