What makes freeze-dried candy so special?
Freeze-dried food has been around since the 1950’s. Most of us remember “Astronaut Ice Cream” from our childhood. It was invented in 1968. It tasted just like ice cream but sort of “melted” as it reconstituted in your mouth. At least for me, I used to pretend that I was actually in outer space while I ate it. Freeze-dried ice cream was my first introduction to freeze-dried anything. Then, when I discovered freeze-dried candy, and tasted the new textures and intensified flavors, I felt that same excitement I had as a kid. These goodies take your mouth on a delightful journey, combining something familiar (the taste) with something new (the textures and shapes).
The freeze-drying process removes 99% of the moisture from food and that is true for goodies as well. Most goodies don’t have very much moisture in them to begin with and so extracting the little they do have creates some different textures. Some candies, like Candy Corn or Starbursts, retain almost all of their shape and size but because we have extracted what little water they had, they are left with concentrated, more intense flavors. The goodies that retain most of their shape tend to become hard and crunchy when freeze-dried.
The other half of the candies I have tried,on the other hand, expand quite a bit! By putting it into the vacuum chamber and slowly warming it, allows the texture to change from soft and chewy to light and fluffy. During the freeze-drying process Taffy and Caramel lose some of their mass(as the moisture evaporates) but increase in volume by 3 times! The taffy almost always becomes a sphere. And because of all the fun assorted colors of salt water taffy, my son has dubbed the freeze-dried salt water taffy, “Taffy Planets”. Milk Duds are one of my favorites. The chocolate does not freeze-dry (it is too oil based), but the caramel balloons up and, like the hulk’s clothes, the chocolate is hanging on the edges of the now expanded caramel.
As the candy expands it takes the path of least resistance. This can create some super fun shapes. Caramels tend to become oval shaped, the skittles inner chewiness pops out of their shells and Big Hunch “Chunks” look like an abstract painting. Seeing all the strange and crazy shapes is one of my favorite things about freeze-drying goodies!
The freeze-drying process extracts all of the water from the candy and that is what gives them their new texture and shapes. It is important to keep freeze-dried candy in air-tight containers. Because it had so little water in it to begin with, it doesn’t take a lot of humidity to begin to reconstitute. Any air tight container does fine for short term storage, but if you want some of your treats to be part of your food storage, mylar bags with oxygen absorbers is the best was to go. With that storage method your treats should last as long as 25 years (probably longer!).
Freeze-dried candy is new fun and special because it creates new textures and shapes while intensifying the flavors you already enjoy. These goodies will bring delight in familiar and new ways!