This month I participated in the October Kitchen Challenge hosted by Lindsay over at Love and Olive Oil. The challenge this month: Saltwater Taffy. I was excited to try this challenge because I had never made Saltwater Taffy before (although I’ve eaten plenty of it in my day!) and because October is the month of all things sticky and sweet.
Making your own taffy isn’t particularly complicated. There are very few ingredients and only a handful of steps. But the part that makes this challenging is cooking the sugar. If you have ever made your own confections at home, then you know that you can quickly go from making a delicious sugary syrup to something burnt, hard and unappetizing. An accurate thermometer is a must here. I cooked my sugar to the “hard-ball stage” and it was plenty firm and chewy. But some recipes I found cooked theirs to the “soft-crack stage”, which will result in a harder piece of taffy. I didn’t cook a batch of taffy to the soft-crack stage so I can’t say this definitively, but I suspect the resulting candy would have way been too hard for me, so I’m glad I stopped at the hard-ball stage.
The fun part about making your own taffy is getting to pull it. Pulling the taffy aerates it, making it lighter and chewier. Although I have to admit it was tough work! My arms were pretty sore by the end. But I just kept telling myself all that “exercise” was going to help off-set the taffy I would eventually be eating. To be able to pull and stretch the taffy you have to GENEROUSLY butter your hands. And that right there was one thing that I knew would be particularly challenging for me. I know that must sound strange and silly. But I really dislike being messy and dirty. When I’m working in the kitchen I always keep everything (including myself) neat and clean. In the end, the whole hand buttering experience wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. But I didn’t get any process photos of the pulling to show you guys (butter + camera don’t mix well) – sorry!
I flavored my taffy with butterscotch (holy cow – delicious!). But you can use whatever flavored extract you want – peppermint, vanilla, maple, orange, etc. And you can add a few drops of food coloring too. It’s all about having fun and being creative!
Recipe slightly adapted from The Science of Cooking
- For the Saltwater Taffy
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter (plus more for buttering the pan and your hands)
- 1 tsp. flavoring (such as butterscotch, peppermint, vanilla)
- A few drops of food coloring, optional
- Special Equipment
- Candy or instant read thermometer
- Pastry brush (not the silicon kind, use one with natural fibers)
- Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet or baking pan. Place it in the refrigerator to chill.
- Add the sugar, cornstarch and salt to a medium heavy-bottom saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and add the water, corn syrup and the butter. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Continue stirring with the wooden spoon until the mixture begins to boil. Once it’s boiling, stop stirring. Use a pastry brush that has been dipped in warm water to wash down any remaining sugar crystals from the sides of the pan.
- Attach your thermometer and let the mixture continue to boil, undisturbed, until it reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take approximately 10-20 minutes. Once the sugar reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit, immediately remove it from the heat. Let it cool for a few minutes until the temperature comes down to about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your flavoring and food coloring and stir quickly but gently to combine. Pour the taffy onto your buttered baking sheet or pan and let it sit at room temperature to cool. You want the taffy to be cool enough so that you are comfortable handling it.
- Once the taffy is cool enough to handle, you can being pulling it (either alone or with a friend!). Lay out a large piece of wax paper for later on. Generously butter your hands and peel the taffy from the baking sheet or pan. Pull and stretch the taffy in a pattern, pulling the ends out from the middle and then folding them back towards the center. Repeat this process of pulling the taffy for about 15 minutes. You will notice the taffy becomes lighter in color and expands in size as air gets incorporated.
- When you are done pulling the taffy, pull it out one last time into a long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Lay the taffy rope out on your wax paper. Using buttered kitchen scissors, carefully cut the taffy into 1-inch pieces. Cut out squares of wax paper and wrap each piece individually. Store your taffy at room temperature. These little treats would make a great gift!