Make Your Own Taffy
October 22, 2012
During a summer trip to Silver Dollar City, I happened to pick up way too much saltwater taffy and decided to send some to a good friend of mine who lives in Denmark. Apparently, it's virtually unheard of there; he'd never tasted it. Now that he's hopelessly hooked, I thought I'd try my hand at making some myself to give to him when he comes to visit, as my way of welcoming him. And, may I just say: my first attempt was a disaster.
I tried to make it 3 different times within one evening, failing in unique ways each time.
Take 1: I neglected to wipe down the sides of the pot as my taffy cooked (Keep on reading to learn why this is important).
Take 2: I let the candy sit too long before handling it, and it hardened before I could pull it.
Take 3: I left the pot too long, and the sugar began to caramelize.
So, take my word for it: Taffy is harder to make than you think! There's a lot of science involved. Oh yeah, and the recipes that tell you to cook it to 270 degrees Fahrenheit are sort of wrong. Here's a breakdown of what you need to make your very own taffy, and how to make it turn out stellar!
What You'll Need:
A candy thermometer: You'll need to remove the taffy when it reaches a certain temperature. The temperature at which you turn off the heat is crucial.
A pastry brush: You'll use this to wipe down the sides of the pan while the taffy cooks.
A couple pairs of latex gloves: Wearing these will offer some protection to your hands when you work with the warm taffy.
A cookie sheet to transfer the cooked taffy to
A medium-sized pot to cook the taffy in
A cooking spoon to stir the mixture that is destined to become taffy
A spatula for folding the edges of the warm taffy in on itself
Wax paper for the final product
Oil to grease the pan to which you'll transfer the taffy
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of corn starch
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 drops of food coloring (optional)
1 teaspoon of flavoring oil (Different varieties of taffy may call for different amounts of the flavoring agent and may ask that you add it at different stages of the taffy-making process).
Combine the sugar and corn starch in the saucepan. Stir in the corn syrup, water, butter, and salt. Place the pan on medium heat. Insert the candy thermometer into the mixture.
Stir the mixture until it begins to boil. At this point, let it cook undisturbed. This is important because too much agitation can lead the separated glucose and fructose molecules to recombine and form sugar. We don't want this. We want to break down the structure of the sugar in the liquid.
As the mixture cooks, use a pastry brush to wipe the sides of the pan clean of residue. This is done for the same reason listed above. We don't want sugar reforming.
Cook the taffy to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Most recipes I've found recommend cooking it until it reaches 270 degrees, but I've found this temperature to be too high. The candy I made using the recommended method hardened too quickly. At 270 degrees, candy is said to be in the soft-crack stage. Moisture content is low, and it solidifies quickly. It isn't very malleable. In contrast, 250 degrees marks the firm ball stage. Moisure content is moderate, and the substance remains malleable. We obviously want something we can shape, so we want to aim for 250 degrees. Aiming for a lower temperature will also fail to produce the results we're looking for though. It will produce candy that's too soft to mold into taffy. Cooking to 250 degrees is the key to a great end product!
Remove the pot from the heat. Pour the substance onto a well-greased cookie sheet. Leave to cool for a few minutes before handling. Apply a little oil to your hands. This will keep hot sugar from sticking to them. If you have latex gloves, put a pair or two on for some added protection. Grease a spatula and slowly work the edges of the taffy sheet in toward the center of the mass. Aim for a cylindrical shape. When the taffy is cool enough to handle, fold and stretch it until it holds its shape.
When the taffy is cool and firm enough to hold its shape, do the following 3 steps:
- Pull it, aiming for a uniform thickness throughout the mass
- Form a horseshoe shape out of it
- Twist the sides of the horseshoe together
You'll repeat this process for a while, 10-15 minutes or until the taffy becomes too difficult to manipulate. The end product should have a sheen to it.
Use a buttered knife or a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the taffy into 1-inch pieces. Place in wax paper and simultaneously twist the ends in opposite directions to secure the candy inside.
While taffy making is a science, it's also an art. Feel free to experiment with flavors! Adding cocoa baking powder to the mixture as it cooks will give you a delicious chocolatey final product. Kool-Aid packets can be used to fruitify your creation. You can also purchase flavoring oils pretty cheaply. And remember: a little goes a long way! Have fun experimenting!
North Independence Branch