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What effects does xylitol have when used in place of sugar?

  • Will replacing sugar with xylitol lower the calories in my candy?
  • Does it have a laxative effect if eaten in quantity?
  • Will my fruit gems benefit from other gums or thickeners added to the recipe? Or citric acid, wheat starch etc?

I am new to confectionery but making food stuffs and making cosmetics seems to be a kindred talent. Let's see if I am up to the task. Can't be too hard can it??? LOL

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When you ask if they will benefit, do you mean in terms of improving the flavour or improving the cohesiveness? They'll be plenty gummy enough with a sufficient quantity of gelatin or agar, and you say you have flavour under control... –  Aaronut Mar 24 '11 at 21:38
    
well i was thinking about the cohesiveness so seems like thats not too big an issue if i play with your recommendations of gelatine and agar. I have access to professional colours and fruit flavours and love the idea of experimenting with real fruit juice concentrates or purees. I will need to have some hands on with xylitol too. Thank you for your interest and support Aaronut –  Carol Mar 25 '11 at 1:09
    
actually, I can imagine more dramas with setting points and sugars and more with confectionery than making cosmetics –  Carol Mar 25 '11 at 1:10
    
wow . . I had no idea who I was intereacting with on this site . . you guys rock! Love your work and molecular gastronomy! Loved the referred blog on autumn leaf crisps I was trying to imagine how to make tasty crisps that were low in fat and carbs for my diet and this has inspired me. –  Carol Mar 25 '11 at 6:20

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's difficult to find reliable information amidst all the marketing hype with xylitol, but here's what I've been able to figure out:

  • Xylitol does have fewer calories, per unit of weight, than table sugar. However, xylitol is also less sweet than sugar. Factually, it has about 2/3 the calories of sugar. Anecdotally, it is about half as sweet, so if you judged your amounts entirely by taste (as opposed to doing a 1:1 substitution), you would end up with more calories.

  • Xylitol has been associated with gastrointestinal upset in doses higher than 35 g, so if you plan to use a lot of in your candies, you might want to use very small servings. It seems to be not as bad as most other sugar alcohols, but still much harder on the gut than ordinary sugar.

  • One of the more interesting properties of some sugar alcohols (including xylitol, again) is that they are humectants - meaning that they draw in moisture from the air. This is a useful property if your candies are prone to drying out; on the other hand, if they are prone to breaking down then this could make it worse. It depends on the specific candy and especially the gelatin concentration.

  • Although it is mildly alkaline - enough to spawn anecdotes of it having a "cooling effect" on the mouth - it's not really enough to make a difference in gelatin, which does fine up to a pH of about 10. Citric acid does seem like a common accompaniment in sugar-free gums but it seems to be just for flavour purposes, as humans aren't wired to enjoy alkaline tastes. Keep in mind that this will at least partly negate the supposed oral benefits.

  • Finally, polyols act as stabilizers for gelatin in the same way that sugar does. Although xylitol wasn't included in the linked experiment, it's very similar to sorbitol in that respect. What you'll end up with is an increased melting point and a generally firmer gel, and while that's normally seen as a good thing, don't overdo it or else you'll lose the melt-in-your-mouth property that's unique to gelatin.

  • I wouldn't use other thickeners; the gelatin is already taking care of that, and if you need more gel strength then just use more gelatin. If you're trying to make stiffer candies then just use a stiffer gelling agent.

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Wow . . what a wealth of information, Thank you Aaronut. Great research. I will need to consider all this and apply to the task. It seems what lose in one sense you gain in another. I enjoy your input, smile. –  Carol Mar 30 '11 at 3:28

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