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Salt water taffy evokes memories of vacations by the ocean, the sounds of children enjoying carnival rides, and cool sea breezes. You don't need to go on vacation to make this festive candy at home.
Before You Begin
Taffy is made by cooking sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water together to make a syrup. The sugar provides the flavor and structure. Corn syrup prevents crystallization and keeps the candy smooth and chewy. Salt adds the characteristic flavor; the candy isn't made with actual salt water.
The syrup is cooked until it reaches the firm ball stage (250°F) to soft crack stage (270°F). That means that if you drop a bit of the hot syrup into cold water, it will form into a ball that holds its shape and sets quickly. If cooked to hard ball stage, the candy will be softer. If cooked to soft crack stage, the candy will be firm and much chewier. Flavorings and color are added to the syrup mixture after it has cooked and cooled for a bit.
How to Pull Taffy
The taffy is then pulled, either by hand or a machine, to add air to the mixture. This step lightens the color and texture of the candy. To pull the taffy by hand, pick it up in clean hands and hold onto it with both hands. Pull the taffy so it stretches out between your hands. Then double it up and pull again. Keep doing this until the taffy starts to stiffen and has a texture of, well, taffy.
How to Make Salt Water Taffy
This delicious candy is fun to make at home. Get the kids involved in the pulling stage. When it comes time to wrap them, avoid using plastic wrap, since it can stick. Use wrappers that have a coating, such as waxed paper. You can find candy wrappers online or at baking supply stores.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 to 5 drops food coloring (optional)
1 teaspoon flavoring extract (optional)
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Grease a large, sturdy jelly roll pan with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Only use unsalted butter, since salt will make the syrup stick to the pan.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a large, heavy saucepan.
Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
After it comes to a boil, use a wet brush to wash down sugar crystals from the sides of the pan. Or you can cover the pan and let steam wash the crystals down for 2 minutes.
Uncover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the pan sides or bottom.
Let the syrup mixture simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the thermometer registers 250°F for softer candy, or 270°F for harder candy. Or you can test the candy by dropping a tiny bit of the syrup into a cup with cold water. For softer candy, the ball should be firm but flexible. For harder taffy, the ball should be firm and you should not be able to compress it.
Stir in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.
Remove the candy from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Be careful, since this hot syrup can cause serious burns.
Let the candy cool for 10 to 15 minutes until it is still very warm, but you can touch it safely. You can use a metal scraper to carefully move the syrup around so it cools faster.
When you can handle the candy, drizzle the flavoring of your choice on top, and add a few drops of food coloring, if you're using it.
Then pick up the candy with both hands. Start pulling it. When the candy changes color and starts to get stiff, after 10 to 20 minutes, it's ready to cut.
Pull the candy into a long rope about 1/2" in diameter, and place on the counter. Cut the candy into pieces using scissors.
Wrap each individual piece of taffy using waxed paper, parchment paper, or candy wrappers.
Cut the wrappers to size and then roll the candy in it. Be sure the two edges overlap.
Twist the ends so the wrapper stay closed.
Store the candy in an airtight container at room temperature.
36 to 48 pieces of candy
Flavor and Color Variations
Salt water taffy can be flavored and colored any way you'd like.
Some popular variations include mint, peppermint, butter flavor, banana, orange, vanilla, and even chocolate. Look at the extracts in your grocery store for more ideas.
You can divide the candy into batches and make each one a different flavor or color.
You can even combine two or three colors or flavors in one candy. Finish pulling each flavor, then form two ropes. Put them side by side, then twist the two ropes together and pull them.
Peppermint salt water taffy is usually tinted pink or green. You can color butter and banana flavors with yellow food coloring. Chocolate extract is good paired with brown coloring.
Try Taffy Making Yourself
Read through the information and recipe before you start for best results. Experiment with flavors and colors to find your favorites. Switch things up by trying a butter taffy recipe.