Why did the crumbled peppermint candy on our peppermint bark...melt?
December 22, 2020 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Madame Naberius and I made peppermint bark this year. All seemed to go well. Until it got weird. The peppermint candy sprinkled on top turned into a reddish slurry in the refrigerator. What's a reason - other than high temperature because this stuff was cold - why peppermint candy would just liquefy like that?

We've made peppermint bark before, but we kind of scaled up our production this year because Tiny Croft is four, and really excited about Christmas for the first time. We figured she'd demand it constantly. Only to discover that she apparently doesn't like peppermint. (Or chocolate. I'm starting to wonder if we were given a changeling at the hospital!)

What's different this time is that we got a couple silicone sheet molds. Don't see why that would do this. They weren't in contact with the candy part. And instead of having me pound the crap out of a plastic bag full of candy canes, we bought a couple bags of pre-crushed candy. Otherwise, it was pretty much what we always do. We got our layers of chocolate assembled, and sprinkled the candy on top. It looked very Christmas-y, cut apart nicely, and tasted great. It was peppermint bark. Success!

Then we put it away in the refrigerator, still in its silicone molds, where for some reason the peppermint candy...melted. I don't know how else to describe it. We now have a reddish peppermint slurry roughly the consistency of toothpaste, or perhaps a bit thicker, all over the top layer. It still looks very Christmas-y, and it still tastes great, if a bit messier to handle now. But honestly, WTF?
posted by Naberius to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Best answer: The peppermint bits are pretty much pure sugar, and:
Sugar is hygroscopic, which means that water thinks it's pretty great—and really, who can blame it? If you ever put a lollipop in the fridge, only to return to a pool of bright pink sugar syrup, it is because of sugar's water-attracting property.
To combat this problem there are non-melting sugars commonly used on powdered doughnuts and the like. I'm not sure what the best approach is for peppermint bark, though.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on December 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Humidity was my thought as well but I’ll also say that my results using crushed candy have varied with the quality of the candy - we had a set of candy canes from the dollar store behave similarly even on the counter and I’ve been picky about my candy sources since. I’d thrown the box out but I assumed they used some other sugar than what I was used to.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:43 AM on December 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yup, hard candy always turns into a sticky mess for me, here near the coast, just sitting in the pantry in its wrapper. Your fridge must be well humidified (good for most items!). The only answer I can propose is, obviously, snarf it down much faster, lol.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:53 AM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it's the fridge moisture. It would have been fine on the counter. Next time leave it out, you don't need to refrigerate peppermint bark.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: That's the answer then. Ran this past Madame Naberius and she said we hadn't refrigerated it in previous years - a detail that had slipped my memory. She put in the fridge this year because she used a different chocolate for the dark layer. This had been recommended by one of her cousins, who said that it was good but soft enough at room temperature that the layers would come apart.

FWIW, I haven't noticed any problem with the layers separating. It seems to do just fine at room temperature and, as we have now learned, putting it in the refrigerator causes the peppermint candy to turn to peppermint sludge.

Mystery solved. Thanks everyone!
posted by Naberius at 11:24 AM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can also freeze chocolate, but in general unless you're dealing with hot weather that would melt the chocolate (or just like the extra snap that ice-cold chocolate has), there's no real point to doing so. The freezer freezes out all of the moisture in the air making it sufficiently low-humidity that candy won't absorb water.
posted by Aleyn at 12:35 PM on December 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

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