Xylitol is a tooth-friendly, diabetic-friendly sugar alcohol that can be used to make yummy crystal candy. Give your friends and family a unique and beneficial gift.
Here's what this Instructable will cover:
What is xylitol & why you might care?
Where does xylitol come from?
What you need:
Making Xylitol Candy: – it’s NOT like regular sugar (sucrose)
Package and give as gifts or enjoy it yourself
Final note: keep away from dogs and other pets. Xylitol is naturally occurring and is safe for humans, but dogs cannot tolerate it. VERY TOXIC TO DOGS. (Just like humans can eat chocolate, but chocolate is toxic to dogs).
Step 1: What Is Xylitol and Why You Might Care
What is xylitol and why you might care:
Xylitol is a sweet-tasting polyalcohol or sugar alcohol (not a liquid and not an intoxicating alcohol like ethanol). Xylitol is can be found naturally in small quantities, in fibers of fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is about as sweet as regular table sugar (sucrose), but has 33% fewer calories. It comes in a white crystal form, often substituted 1 for 1 with table sugar. Xylitol has only 5 carbon molecules, instead of the 6 found in “regular” sugar. Most bacteria cannot use xylitol as an energy source, including those that live in mouth. Xylitol has been shown to reduce dental caries (cavities) and can help re-mineralize tooth enamel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylitol) I heard about xylitol from my dentist, who recommended it to help maintain my tooth enamel in the face of medication-induced ‘dry mouth’.
Xylitol has a low glycemic index, 7 compared to 68 for sucrose. (Glycemic index is extent to which a food is converted to glucose, thereby raising blood sugar level In the human body.) Humans do not process Xylitol using insulin, so it often labeled ‘safe for diabetics’. (www.xylitolusa.com/what-is-xylitol/) But, check with your doctor or diabetic information sources to see how to calculate carbohydrate load for insulin dependent diabetes. (Note: Wikipedia also lists Glycemic Index of xylitol as 7, but www.epicdental.com/v-305-a-natural-alternative-for-diabetics lists the GI of xylitol as 9.).
Where does xylitol come from?
Xyla brand xylitol is made from hardwood (birch trees), and is made in North America (www.xylitolusa.com). Xylitol can also be made from corn cobs, husks or other organic fiber sources. Epic brand xylitol is made from corn cobs ( www.epicdental.com ). From a chemical perspective, the source of xylitol should not affect its chemical behavior or properties. That said, some people prefer xylitol made from trees, locally sourced, not made in China etc. You can decide which type of xylitol you want to use. I’ve successfully made xylitol crystal candy using xylitol made from corn and xylitol made from hardwoods.
Most health food or specialty stores in the U.S. seem to carry xylitol. It is also sold on Amazon and through various websites. I don’t know availability in other countries.
Step 2: What You Need:
flavored oil or concentrated candy flavoring (LorAnn Oils or similar, NOT alcohol based extracts such as vanilla)
cream of tatar (potassium bitartrate) (NOT tartaric acid)
citric acid - fine crystals or powder. Sometimes sold as 'sour salt' for cooking
double boiler or two nesting saucepans
silicone baking mat or heavy duty aluminum foil
stove top, burner or other controlled heat source
small kitchen scale or set of small measuring spoons (1/16 teaspoon, 1/8 teaspoon etc.)
Glass Mason jar (1/2 cup size), or
Small metal tin with tight fitting lide (Altoids or similar size), or
Food safe plastic container
Step 3: Making the Xylitol Candy & the Recipe
1. Melt xylitol, cream of tartar and citric acid to make syrup
2. Remove from heat and add flavoring
3. Pour syrup out onto cooling surface
4. Let crystalize/set
5. Break into serving size pieces
No need for candy thermometer. DO NOT add water to make the xylitol syrup (unlike what you do for sugar hard candy or taffy).
Xylitol Crystal Candy Recipe
1/2 c. xylitol (sugar alcohol)
1/16 tsp. (1 pinch, .4 gram) cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate)
1/16 teaspoon (1 pinch, .4 gram) citric acid
Flavoring (cinnamon oil/cassia oil or LorAnn oils – highly concentrated flavorings) DO NOT use vanilla extract or other cooking extracts with water- they are two weak and the water will interfere with crystallization (hardening) of the xylitol.
Step 4: It's All in the Details
1. Use a double boiler (or a small pan floating in a pan of boiling water)- do not let water splash into the xylitol – it will interfere with crystallization)
2. Place xylitol, cream of tartar and citric acid into top of double boiler, mix well. Heat over boiling water (simmer) until melted.Should take about 15-20 minutes to melt.
3. Crystal will melt around the edges first, then gradual wet the entire pile of ingredients. Do not stir until everything is ‘wet’ looking. Best to let it melt without stirring until it is a pretty clear syrup.
4. You can stir last few lumps, but more stirring seems to produce more small crystals in the final candy. Syrup crystalizes very quickly on the spoon, so use a fresh spoon each time. The goal is a clear syrup.
5. When fully melted, turn off heat. Quickly stir in flavoring (2-4 drops pure oil or up to 1/16 tsp LorAnn oil). Note: Ingredients for LorAnn oils can include: Natural and/or artificial flavoring, alcohol, propylene glycol, glycerin, water, color. I got harder candy using flavorings with less water, the ones that listed other ingredients before water.
6. After adding flavor, remove top of double boiler and quickly wipe the bottom dry with a cotton towel.
Step 5: The Aftermath
7. Immediately pour syrup onto a silicone baking mat or a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (shiny side up). Work fast and efficiently – more scrapping of the pan seems to cause more crystals to form. If the syrup freezes in the pan before you get it all out, reheat pan over boiling water to re-melt and finish pouring. Best if the mat or foil is on top of an insulated surface (airbake cookie sheet, wood cutting board – not cold stone countertop). We want the crystals to for slowly so they are bigger and harder.
8. Let syrup self-level, should be about 1/8-3/16 inches (3-4mm) thick.
9. Set aside in dust free area to set. White/opaque areas of sheet crystal will form, usually starting in the areas where the last bits of scrapped syrup fell. Good candy will form shiny flat crystal sheets. It may take up to 3-4 hours for sheet to fully crystalize. If the whole things sets in less than five minutes you might find the candy is fragile and grainy as it is made up of many tiny crystals. In this case, you can re-melt the candy, adding extra acid. The flavoring may evaporate, so add a little more right before you pour the syrup.
10. Break candy into small pieces (about thumbnail size), put into decorative tin, glass mason jar or plastic container with a tight lid. Keep xylitol dry and it will stay fresh for months. (I’ve never had any last longer than a couple months before it got eaten). Xylitol does not seem to absorb moisture like sugar candy does, so it’s unlikely to get sticky and should keep a long time.
Step 6: Trouble Shooting
Xylitol crystal candy crumbles or breaks easily: If the surface looks grainy and dull, the crystals might be too small. Add more citric acid or cream of tartar. Make sure your flavoring is not high in water, water may slow down crystallization. Make sure that water does not splash into your pan. Try stirring the syrup less – be patient and let the ingredient liquefy on their own.
Xylitol syrup takes many hours to solidify, or stays sticky: You can add some seed crystals, just use grains of xylitol straight from the package. Use less acid. You can re-melt the sticky candy and add plain xylitol to dilute the acid concentration. (Note: the xylitol syrup will almost always set, but it might take overnight.) Reduce the amount of flavoring.