Freeze-Dried Sweet Creations
It’s a drizzly wintery afternoon in January and Kim Breaux is about to cut squares of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches to put on trays and pop into her freeze dry machine. This is no science project; it’s her business. Since 2021, Breaux has been freeze drying all sorts of candies and ice cream, converting them into puffy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful confections that she’s branded as Freeze Dat.
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, when shortages of certain supplies became apparent, Breaux was compelled to preserve food for meals, just to be ready. In between freeze-drying meats and pastas, she got the idea to try candy. “I heard about people doing it on Facebook, so I tried it with some Skittles and it was like ‘Wow!’” says the New Iberia native. “In the beginning, my young granddaughter tested a lot of my candies and I sent some to school with my teenager and everyone loved them. I had to get my name out there.” Last spring, she began selling at farmers markets.
Breaux explains the process saying the freeze dry machine does most of the work. “I put the candy on trays into the machine and it brings it to a negative 40 degrees (or colder) and then it starts to warm up to 150 degrees over the course of several hours. During that time, a vacuum pump pulls 100 percent of the moisture out of the candy, leaving ice crystals on the side of the dryer chamber.” Breaux says each batch takes 6 to 24 hours, depending on candies or ice cream. When completely dry, they are sealed in moisture and oxygen-proof packages to ensure freshness until they’re opened.
Soon Breaux began freeze drying other candies: gummi worms, her favorite candy bars, caramels, salt water taffy, Jell-O, marshmallows, ice cream, and pies (chocolate cream and key lime.) The product line has grown to 15 different sweets.
What makes Freeze Dat so fun to eat is that the finished products come out unrecognizable from their original form. Caramels puff up resembling golden potatoes; Skittles look like miniature pool balls after the center expands revealing the white inside; and gummi worms transform into colorful frozen-looking caterpillars. The most important thing is that the taste does not waiver in the least. “Even Jell-O comes out full of flavor,” assures Breaux.
Since all of the moisture is removed from the candies, they can be kept in their bags without refrigeration for an extended period of time – that is, if you’re not tempted to eat them all at once. Opened bags last months if you follow Breaux’s instructions. “Make sure to close your bag afterwards as the candy or ice cream will act like a sponge and absorb any humidity, quickly – like cotton candy would.”
Freeze Dat candies are perfect for snacking in the car, on the beach or on camping trips!! Kids can enjoy the taste of ice cream – like cookies and cream and Breaux’s favorite orange sherbet – without the drippy mess, or fruit roll-ups minus the stickiness. Parents (and grandparents) can savor a light and airy version of hard candies like the old-time Bit-O-Honey and Mary Jane.
Since expanding, Breaux has moved her machines and bagging equipment from her kitchen to an enclosed patio area. “I go in there, close the door, put on the radio and it’s my zone,” says Breaux, a mail carrier for the New Iberia Post Office. “I’ll do some freeze drying at 5 in the morning, for an hour or two, before I start delivering mail. Then when I get back at 3:00, I’ll put in a couple more hours.”
You can find Freeze Dat candies in Gonsoulin’s Meat Market, Crawfish Town USA, Handy Stop Market in Lafayette, Millside Market in New Iberia, Lydia Food Store, Centerville Market, Broussard Commons in Broussard, and the gift shop at Rip Van Winkle Gardens. They are also shipped within Louisiana.
These days, Breaux is working on Valentine gifts of marshmallow hearts and other items and candies customed for Mardi Gras like her king cake-flavored Jolly Rancher-type candy.
Still participating in area farmers markets Breaux says The Delcambre Seafood & Farmers Market is her favorite. “The people are great and helpful and make me feel like family. I’ve made some great contacts. It’s a great atmosphere over there – I love it.”