Can You Make Freeze-Dried Candy In a Dehydrator?
It’s true that anyone can make freeze-dried candy, and many people want to know if it’s possible in their home dehydrator, but will it work?
The quick answer is not really. Dehydrating and freeze-drying will remove most of the moisture from food, but they are quite different processes and produce different results. You can use your food dehydrator to make many delightful foods, but freeze-drying candy gives you something you can’t imitate. Keep reading to learn the difference between dehydration and freeze-drying.
What is Freeze-Dried Candy?
Freeze-dried candy is a unique and wonderful treat that transforms well-known candies into something with a recognizable taste but an entirely new texture and appearance. In many cases, the flavor is intensified compared to the original candy. In the freeze-drying process, the candy expands to several times its original size, similar to how popcorn comes from a little kernel.
The resulting texture is rigid but not hard. It isn’t sticky to the touch but readily melts in your mouth. The best part is that each freeze-dried candy has its own slightly different texture. Things like chocolate coating and peanuts don’t change much in the process though other parts will, creating a fascinating combination of textures.
What’s the Difference Between Freeze-Drying and Dehydrating?
These processes are used to preserve food by removing moisture, but they do it in very different ways. You can use both to produce wonderful creations, but they are not the same thing.
How a Dehydrator Works?
A dehydrator slowly dries food with low heat and airflow. It’s basically the same process humans have been using to preserve food for thousands of years, though modern machines probably produce a more consistent result. This process removes 70-90 percent of the moisture from food.
How a Freeze-Dryer Works?
A freeze-drying machine first cools food to around 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Next, a vacuum pump removes almost all the air from the chamber, leaving the food under nearly zero pressure. The food is slightly warmed to around minus 10 degrees. Under low pressure, ice crystals evaporate before they are warm enough to melt.
Finally, the food is slowly warmed to over 100 degrees, still under zero pressure. By the time the process is complete, it has removed 98-99 percent of the moisture.
What’s the Difference Between the Products?
- Because freeze-drying removes more moisture — up to 99 percent versus 90 percent — it can be preserved much longer than dehydrated food — up to 25 years versus up to 10 years.
- Because the freeze-dryer uses cold instead of heat, it retains much of the food’s original taste and nutritional value — about 97 percent. Dehydration, with low heat, changes the flavor of the food and reduces the nutritional value — about 60 percent of the original.
- For many foods, fruit, for example, freeze-drying affects the shape and texture of the food very little. In the case of freeze-dried candy, you may see a surprising effect. Often the candies balloon up under the low-pressure environment. When foods are dehydrated, they usually shrink slightly and become very chewy.
What Can You Do With a Dehydrator?
You can make many wonderful things in a dehydrator. As far as candy goes, you won’t get the same magical result as freeze-dried candy, but you can get something good. If you like Peeps, you may already know they are even better when they’ve gotten a little stale. This usually takes a couple of days, but with a food dehydrator, you can have them in just a few hours; this also applies to mini marshmallows.
Dehydrated fruits are basically like candy. They’re chewy, have a nice concentrated flavor, and are as portable as potato chips. In our opinion, some of the best fruits to dehydrate are apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, mangoes, peaches, and cantaloupe.
Another way to enjoy dehydrated fruit is by making fruit leather. This process is ridiculously good and allows you to come up with great combinations of fruit flavors. Here’s a great basic recipe for fruit leather.
- Wash, deseed, and dice 5 cups of your fruits of choice. Most of the time, we like to leave the peel on for nutritional value. Obvious exceptions include bananas, pineapple, kiwis, and citrus fruits.
- Put the fruit pieces in a blender or food processor along with your favorite sweetener to taste. We like 2 oz. of honey. Blend until smooth.
- Preheat the mixture in a pot on medium heat for about 15 minutes; this will make the dehydration process go faster.
- Line the trays of your dehydrator with parchment paper. Pour the mixture into the tray, leaving it thicker on the edges because they tend to dry a little faster (⅛” in the center, ¼” around the edges).
- Dry at 145 F for 6-8 hours. When the fruit leather is dried enough, it will be a bit shiny and won’t stick to your fingers. Remove it from the trays to cool.
- Roll the sheets of leather and slice them to your chosen lengths. Wrap them in cling wrap and put them in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place.
Can I Get My Own Freeze-Fryer?
Absolutely. But even home versions of freeze-drying machines are pretty expensive compared to dehydrators. A home freeze-dryer typically costs between $2,000 on the low end and $5,000 on the high. A home dehydrator, by comparison, can cost anywhere between $30 and $200.
Once you have the machines, costs are pretty much the same. They use about the same amount of electricity and, on average, take about the same amount of time to complete a cycle.
The bottom line is that you can easily get a freeze-dryer for your home, but carefully consider if you will use it enough to make it worth the initial cost.
Not Ready to Buy Your Own Freeze-Dryer? Candy Jan is Here for You!
Even if you can’t justify buying your own freeze-drying machine, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on delicious freeze-dried candy whenever you want. Candy Jan has a wide variety of sweets to choose from.
In fact, if you’re like many, you may have some trouble deciding what you want to taste first. We offer several sample bundles to make the process easier until you find your favorite.
Browse our candy shop and order your stash today. We accept various payment methods, and we can send your freeze-dried candy directly to your door.