M&Ms are a popular candy that many people enjoy adding to cookies, brownies, and other baked goods. When baked into treats, the colored candy coatings seem to magically resist melting, keeping the candies intact. This leaves many home bakers wondering: how do M&Ms not melt when baked into cookies and other desserts?
The M&M Coating
The secret lies in the candy coating that surrounds each M&M. This coating is specifically designed by Mars, the manufacturer of M&Ms, to withstand high temperatures so the candies keep their shape when baked. Mars developed a process to apply multiple layers of coloring and finish to the candies to create this heat-resistant shell.
The coating is made up of several ingredients:
- Gum arabic
- Carnauba wax
The main aspects that prevent melting are the waxes. The carnauba wax is obtained from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree. It has a very high melting point between 80°C and 85°C (176°F to 185°F). Beeswax also has a high melting point around 62°C to 64°C (144°F to 147°F).
These waxes allow the candy coating to withstand the temperatures used for baking cookies, which are typically 177°C to 232°C (350°F to 450°F). While the coating may soften slightly during baking, it retains its shape and remains intact.
The Manufacturing Process
In addition to the coating ingredients, the manufacturing process used to coat the candies contributes to the heat resistance. The candies go through a detailed sequence of steps and special equipment to achieve the protective coating:
- The candies start as tiny, sugar bead centers that are colored and flavored.
- The sugar beads are placed into large rotating drums that tumble and coat them with a syrupy mix of the coating ingredients.
- The coated candies pass under air blowers to begin hardening the coating.
- Next, the candies go through a heated chamber to further cure and harden the coating.
- The candies pass through rotating drums again for another layer of coating syrup.
- More air blowing and heating is done to finish the coating process.
This sequence applies multiple thin layers of the wax-containing coating to each candy. The heating and curing ensures the coating fully dries and hardens into a protective shell. So while the chocolate on your chocolate chip cookies may melt when baking, the durable M&M coating allows them to retain their colorful finish.
Moisture and Fat Resistance
Aside from heat resistance, the M&M coating also provides:
- Moisture resistance to prevent melting from wet cookie dough or batter
- Fat/oil resistance to avoid melting from the fats in doughs
The waxes in the coating repel moisture and fat, further helping the M&Ms hold their shape during baking when surrounded by cookie dough, brownie batter, cake batter, etc. This makes the candies mixable into all kinds of baked goods without losing their color or shape.
Maintaining Appearance and Texture
Aside from technical aspects like melting point, M&Ms are designed to maintain their appearance and texture when baked because this is central to consumer enjoyment. If the candies melted or became distorted when baked into cookies, they would lose their signature look, brand recognition, and appeal to customers.
Mars invests significant resources into engineering the M&M coating and production methods. This achieves heat resistance along with several other factors related to appearance:
- Glossy, durable finish – The wax and layering provide a glossy look and crunchy texture.
- Vibrant colors – The pigments maintain their bold colors at baking temperatures.
- Legible imprint – The “M” logo stays legible and is not distorted by heat.
The coating allows M&Ms to visually pop when used in baked goods, contributing to their popularity as a mix-in for cookies, brownies, and more.
Moisture Migration Prevention
One final factor that may contribute to M&Ms retaining their shape in baked goods is moisture migration prevention. As a sugar-based candy, M&Ms are hygroscopic, meaning they can absorb moisture from the air or surrounding environment. Without a protective coating, the candies could absorb moisture from cookie dough or cake batter, causing them to dissolve or become distorted as they bake.
However, the waxy shell helps prevent moisture migration into the candies. This allows them to bake without absorbing excess moisture that could cause melting. Between the coating’s low moisture permeability and high heat resistance, M&Ms baked into treats retain their appearance, colors, shape, and signature “m” imprints.
M&Ms manage to bake into cookies, brownies, cakes, and other treats without melting due to several key factors:
- A complex candy coating with heat resistant waxes like carnauba and beeswax
- Precise manufacturing processes that apply multiple coating layers
- The coating repelling moisture, oil, and fat from doughs and batters
- Careful engineering of the coating for optimal appearance and texture
These attributes allow the candies to withstand the high heat of baking ovens and mix into all kinds of desserts and treats without losing their iconic look. So next time you enjoy M&M cookies, remember the advanced candy science helping those colorful chocolate candies maintain their shape and crunch even when baked.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the melting point of M&M coatings?
M&Ms are designed to withstand baking temperatures up to approximately 230°C (450°F). This heat resistance comes from waxes like carnauba wax in the candy coating, which has a melting point between 80-85°C (176-185°F).
Why don’t M&Ms melt in cookies like chocolate chips do?
Chocolate chips are made from pure chocolate, so they melt when baked. M&Ms have a specially engineered candy coating that contains heat resistant waxes and is layered on through a process ensuring moisture, oil, and heat resistance. This allows the coating to stay intact when exposed to baking temperatures.
Can M&Ms withstand even higher baking temperatures?
The M&M coating is designed to remain stable during standard baking. Exposing them to temperatures significantly higher than 230°C/450°F may cause damage or melting. Caramel M&Ms in particular are more heat sensitive than traditional M&Ms.
Will M&Ms sink in cakes and muffins during baking?
No, the M&M coating makes the candies lightweight enough that they should not sink through thicker cake batters or muffin batters during baking. Their small size and heat resistance prevents them from sinking.
Do M&Ms affect cookie dough consistency or texture?
M&Ms can generally be mixed into cookie doughs without impacting the structure or texture. Since they do not melt, they will not make the dough thinner or spreading. Their small candy size allows them to mix in evenly. The only exception may be gluten-free doughs, where the M&Ms may change the crumb slightly.
Should M&Ms be stored in the refrigerator?
No, M&Ms do not need refrigerated storage due to their stable candy coating and low moisture content. They can be stored at room temperature in a cool, dry place. Refrigeration is not needed to maintain freshness or prevent melting.
The Science of M&M Coatings
M&M coatings are an engineering marvel, carefully designed to withstand heat and moisture:
|Heat resistance, shine
|Heat and moisture resistance
Melting Points of Key Ingredients
|80°C – 85°C (176°F – 185°F)
|62°C – 64°C (143.6°F – 147.2°F)
Typical Baking Temperatures
|177°C – 232°C (350°F – 450°F)
|163°C – 177°C (325°F – 350°F)
|204°C – 218°C (400°F – 425°F)
|163°C – 177°C (325°F – 350°F)
As shown, typical baking temperatures are well below the melting points for carnauba and beeswax in the M&M coating. This allows the coating to stay solid and protect the candies during baking.
Tips for Baking with M&Ms
Here are some handy tips for incorporating M&Ms into your baked goods:
- Add M&Ms at the very end when mixing doughs and batters to prevent them from breaking down.
- Use mini M&Ms for better proportions in cookies and muffins.
- Try a candy/cookie combo like peanut butter M&Ms in peanut butter cookies.
- Mix in various colors for festive looking baked goods.
- Place full-size M&Ms on top of cookies before baking for decorative fun.
- Store baked goods with M&Ms at room temperature in airtight containers.
With their heat resistant coating, M&Ms are the perfect way to add color, flavor, and chocolate to all your favorite baked treats!