Visit the boardwalk without ever leaving your own kitchen: Making saltwater taffy -- the squishy, sticky, sweet treat found in nearly every seaside town -- is simple. It requires minimal equipment and relatively basic ingredients. The magic takes place once the candy syrup has thickened and cooled enough to gather it in your hands and pull into taffy perfection.
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Even though it sounds like an exotic treat, saltwater taffy doesn't require much special equipment. Most of what you need to make taffy comes in the form of brute arm strength needed for pulling the taffy. Otherwise, you also need to grab:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Heavy-bottomed saucepan
- Wooden or silicone spoon
- Kitchen shears
- Candy thermometer
- Wrappers or squares of wax paper.
Contrary to its name, this tasty treat doesn't include actual saltwater. You probably have most of the ingredients needed to make taffy already on hand. Ingredients include sugar, water, butter, salt and food coloring. Some of the more specialized ingredients -- readily available at most grocery stores or online -- are flavorings, corn syrup, glycerin and cornstarch.
Flavoring the taffy can be as simple as using some peanut butter, cocoa powder or vanilla extract. If you want more exotic flavors, such as peach, raspberry, bubblegum or mint, you may need to visit a specialty shop or online source for baking and candy-making supplies.
Found in the baking aisle at any grocery store, corn syrup is essential for preventing the sucrose molecules created by combining sugar and water into a syrup from crystallizing. Most taffy recipes call for approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup light corn syrup for every 1 cup of sugar used in the recipe.
You can usually find glycerin in drugstores, the baking aisle in many grocery stores or the baking supply section of craft stores. This sweet liquid has no color and a slippery consistency. It's an optional ingredient, but using 1 to 2 teaspoons for every cup of sugar in the recipe helps give the taffy a creamy, soft texture.
Cornstarch isn't absolutely essential to making taffy, but it does give it a lovely smoothness. In general, you only need approximately 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every 1 cup of sugar used in the recipe.
The Basic Taffy-Making Process
The initial process for making saltwater taffy isn't unlike making most other types of candy.
Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Stir in corn syrup, water, butter, salt and glycerin before cooking the mixture over medium heat to dissolve the sugar.
Stir nearly continually until the syrup starts boiling. To avoid crystallizing the sugar in the syrup, stop stirring and leave the mixture alone until it hits 270 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dip a silicone basting or pastry brush in water and use it to brush the sides of the pan to make sure all the sugar crystals have dissolved.
Take the pan off the heat. Stir in your food coloring and flavorings.
Transfer the candy to a greased cookie sheet and let it cool enough to comfortably handle.
Pulling the Taffy
Once the taffy is cooled, the fun part begins. Pulling the taffy aerates the candy to create its trademark texture and consistency. Start coating your hands in butter or shortening to make it easier to handle the candy.
Start pulling the taffy by forming it into a log and pulling it into a rope. Fold the rope in half and in half again before pulling it into a long rope again. Continue repeating the stretching and folding motions to aerate the candy. Stop pulling the taffy once the color lightens up and the taffy is firm. Stretch the taffy into a rope with a 1-inch diameter. Cut the rope into pieces with buttered or greased cooking shears. Wrap the individual pieces of taffy in wrappers or squares of wax paper.
Store the taffy in an airtight container. Eat your homemade taffy within two months. Much longer and you end up with saltwater taffy that's difficult to chew.