What is Freeze-Dried Candy?
Freeze-dried candy is a hobby, a dessert, an experiment, and novel fun.
The concept of freeze-dried candy has caused a small internet craze over the past couple of years. Now more than ever, more people are getting into freeze-drying their own food, including candies.
But what does it mean to freeze-dry candies? How does the process work? Is it possible to do this at home?
These are questions for which many seek answers. We are here to explain the answers to these questions and more.
Where does freeze-drying come from?
Preserving foods and other organic materials through freeze-drying is not a recent development. It’s been around for centuries, with the modern freeze-drying process being rediscovered during the late 1800s and was used to preserve tissue successfully.
This method improves as necessity and experimentation increase the need for a more repeatable and reliable process. Eventually, freeze-drying foods became mainstream in the mid-1900s when government branches such as the military and NASA began using the process to make rations for personnel.
Tools today have greatly improved the process of freeze-drying food and other materials. New tools exist that allow those who can afford the initial investment to preserve personal goods.
How is freeze-dried candy made?
The goal of preserving food through freeze-drying is to remove 98-99% of the water in the food so that bacteria doesn’t have the means to decompose the structure of the food. Keeping water in food gives bacteria and fungi a medium and a source to replicate themselves and break down food.
Freeze-drying removes water through a slow combined process of freezing, sublimation, and desorption.
In the first phase, food is cooled to temperatures well below freezing so that every molecule of water can cool and crystalize into ice.
In the second phase, water molecules sublime into water vapor in a vacuum or near-vacuum environment.
In the third phase, desorption removes what little water and ice remain. Desorption is a chemical process that eliminates any ionized water molecules from the surface of an object.
In the end, the texture of the food has changed from being moist and full to dry and porous. By the time the process is complete, the food appears to have about the same shape it did at the start. Depending on the water content and the texture of the materials, the preserved version of the food can be puffier or more condensed. Since only 2% of the original water content remains, food preserved this way will always be crunchy.
Can I make freeze-dried candy at home?
The freeze-dry frenzy has increased the interest in creating homemade goodies. But is it so easy that anyone can do it at home?
The answer to that is both a yes and no.
The science behind freeze-drying has undoubtedly come a long way in the last hundred years. However, as far as it being something almost anyone can do, there is still an affordability gap limiting the feasibility of this hobby to those affluent enough to afford the buy-in.
Freeze dryers must maintain low temperatures and near-vacuum for hours on end. To cool food thoroughly, you need to freeze it up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit colder than you usually keep food in your freezer at home.
If getting it cold enough isn’t a problem, do you have a way to seal your freezer and pump all their atmosphere out? Can you maintain this for enough time to allow all the water to sublimate from the container?
Home-sized freeze driers are available for purchase, but there is a hefty price tag. You should expect to spend a couple of thousand dollars on a small freeze-dryer. Freeze driers have a high production cost because they must automate the preservation process.
Then, on top of the initial investment are the maintenance and energy costs. It can take anywhere from a few hours to days to finish one batch of food. The time depends on how the food is prepared in the tray and how much water is naturally in the object.
So, to complete one small batch, you need to power your dryer for hours and days on end. Though it may not seem like one extra appliance is likely to use much energy, the energy required to process your food will likely increase your monthly energy bill by a few dozen dollars each month.
Low supply and demand result in inflated prices. Purchasing a new and relatively small freeze dryer can be as much as a used car! A price such as that isn’t an out-of-pocket expense many are capable of making.
So, yes, you can freeze dry foods at home, but unless you are an ardent believer in making freeze-dried foods, this is a big investment that you might not want to spend your hard-earned bucks on.
Can I make freeze-dried candy with a dehydrator or air fryer?
The properties of an air fryer make it impossible to use to make freeze-dried foods. Air fryers use superheated air for cooking food; they are incapable of freezing anything.
Dehydrators may seem like a viable substitute for freeze-dryers, but this isn’t correct. Dehydrators do not freeze and depressurize food for preservation. Instead, water is removed through heating and evaporation.
The result is a chewier product than their freeze-dried counterparts.
What does freeze-dried candy taste like?
You’ll quickly find that freeze-dried candies aren’t anything like regular candies. Their texture is lighter and crunchier, and, almost ironically, their taste becomes more accentuated by the lack of water.
The difference is most noticeable in chewy candies. Before any water removal, the texture is soft, pliable, and giving; the consistency of a freeze-dried chewy candy is light, crunchy, and brittle.
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