I was a fearless child. Around the age of 10 or 11, I bubbled and boiled my way through my mom’s candy-making cookbook, whipping up fudge and lollipops and taffy.
Now, well, now it’s a different story, as I tremble at the mere mention of hot, boiling sugar.
I figured salt water taffy would be a perfect challenge for this month. I mean October is all about candy, right? Candy and fear. Because October is about scary things too.
I say it’s time we conquer those fears with candy. Saltwater taffy to be exact.
Here’s the thing about saltwater taffy: the name is kind of misleading. While many of us associate it with charming seaside candy shops, apparently the best saltwater taffy comes from Salt Lake City (or so I’ve heard). It does not contain actual salt water, though salt and water are both components.
- Boiling Sugar. One of my greatest fears. Let’s see if we can conquer this once and for all.
- Temperature. Get a good candy thermometer, and be sure it is accurate, as you’ll be cooking your sugar to a very precise temperature.
- Flavoring. Flavoring oils (Like LorAnn) are going to be your best bet: they are very concentrated, so a tiny bit will flavor your entire batch without affecting the consistency. And they come in just about every flavor you can imagine (Champagne taffy, anyone?) Most extracts should work as well. As far as mixing in actual ‘stuff’ for flavoring, I can’t say.
- Stretching. Taffy has to be pulled; that’s what makes it light and airy. So flex your biceps and stretch until you can’t feel your arms (just kidding, it probably won’t take THAT long… I hope).
- The Weather. Like the Macaron challenge, this is another one that can be susceptible to heat and humidity. Best to wait for a cool(ish), dry day, if possible.
Resources & Recipes:
- I’ll probably use the recipe from my mom’s candy-making book, Candy (The Good Cook Techniques & Recipes Series), which I happen to have in my possession (thanks, Mom!) This one does contain cornstarch, but no glycerine.
- Some recipes seem to call for cornstarch, others don’t. Otherwise, they are all fairly similar. For example, here’s one from The Science of Cooking that seems pretty legit. Note it also calls for optionally adding glycerine, to help give the taffy a smoother texture. LorAnn also sells glycerine, if you were planning on purchasing flavorings anyway!
- This recipe from ABCnews is almost identical but without the glycerine and cornstarch. Hmm. Experimentation may be in order!
Whip up a batch of saltwater taffy by Monday, October 28th and send me a photo of your results! I’ll post about my experience later that week along with a roundup of everyone who was brave enough to tackle this challenge with me.
The Kitchen Challenge series is simply about getting in the kitchen and challenging yourself to make something new; you aren’t required to have a blog to participate, nor are you required to post about it if you do. However, if you do have a blog and post about the challenge, you are more than welcome to use the above graphic.
Seriously, I’m not pulling your leg, let’s pull some taffy!
I am super pumped about this challenge! I keep meaning to do these challenges and the deadline keeps passing me by but I love making candy and have wanted to make salt water taffy for a long time.
This is INDEED a challenge! I have no idea where to begin to even know how to pull taffy but in the words of Barney Stinson…challenge accepted!!!
I made salt water taffy as a kid once, with my dad, who grew up during the depression.
I remember a few things which might ease your fears a little.
We buttered our hands like mad to pull the taffy, no hot sugar stuck to the skin. And, we waited a few minutes for it to cool at first and we’d pull, pull, pull, and then set it down for a minute, butter, and pull, pull, pull again. As we pulled, it cooled pretty quickly until it was very manageable and we didn’t have to set it down.
Which candy thermometer do you recommend? I can’t seem to find a good reliable one. Thank you!
I recently purchased this one and absolutely love it:
Works for candy as well as meat and things. :)
Oh no!!! I REALLY REALLY want to do this one!! But I’m going to be out of town getting married then on my honeymoon from next week until the 20th! I’ll still try it though! I’ll make it as soon as I get back and get my bravery!
Congratulations! A wedding/honeymoon is a perfectly acceptable excuse. :)
I can say from experience that boiling sugar burns are awful, but I’ve done a fair amount of candy-making and only got burned once. (And that once was in a restaurant kitchen with more than its share of safety hazards.) Be careful, but don’t let fear stop you from trying this one out.
(I would join, but I’m out of town this month, and the kitchenette where I’m staying isn’t really equipped for a taffy pull. Unless there’s anyone in Lyon who wants to invite me over for a taffy party? What is the French word for corn syrup, anyway?)
This sounds like fun, especially the pulling part. I think I’m gonna have to jump in this one. Hmmm…what flavor should a try?
There was a lot of talk of salt water taffy in the Wedding Planners Daughter books by Coleen Paratore. They are set in Cape Cod and the grandmother has award winning salt water taffy. Lovely books and you are brave. I shall look on and marvel!
I will have to try to find some taffy in Salt Lake… I live here and have never seen it here! As long as it’s not made using water from the Great Salt Lake, I’m game ;)
Question – do you know if the food coloring needs to be liquid, gel or candy food coloring gel?
Candy making does frighten me. The thought of getting burned by that bubbling sugar … ouch. But I’m willing to try almost anything once.