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As I write these words, I haven’t yet begun my taffy-making adventure. I’ll be alternating between writing and cooking today, so you get to read along with my first ever candy-making experience.
I’ve been thinking about Taffy for weeks. Salt Water Taffy was the first thing that came to mind when I requested Taffy Day, and I originally intended to make some, and maybe do a comparison with some commercial taffy. Granville Island on a gorgeous sunny Sunday provided commercial taffy in a wide variety of flavours to sample.
Now, I don’t really like taffy simply because candy and I aren’t really chums. I do have a soft spot for White Rabbit taffy (and its cousin Milky) but I haven’t got a clue how to make them. Salt Water Taffy gets points because even though it isn’t noticeably salty the name reminds me of salted licorice, which I might die without. Some good Dubbel Zout would go to the desert island with me long before even chocolate, who, I’ll admit, is a pal.
I’ve been browsing some recipes and I have had a change of heart. Salt Water Taffy is getting kicked to the curb (or boardwalk?) and I have devised a new plan. A molasses taffy I-will-make, to be topped with a sprinkle of smoked Malden sea salt. I shall call it Deerfoot Taffy after the Calgary thoroughfare, in honour of the molasses/salt mixture used to economically de-ice winter roads. I believe the name is appropriate, because just as Salt Water Taffy contains no salt water, my Deerfoot Taffy contains no deer feet.
Molasses is cool stuff. I love that it isn’t too sweet, I love the mineral-y, almost bitter flavour of it, and I love the fact that due to the invert sugar content molasses keeps baked goods nice and moist by actually sucking moisture out of the air and into the goods. I often substitute in some molasses when I bake, and though the alteration is always performed with some trepidation it has always worked out well. Hopefully that luck will carry through into my candy production.
I decided to try this recipe, because the appeal of simplicity won out over the appeal of “that looks like a tasty, reliable recipe”. Otherwise I probably would have tried this one: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/pulled_molasses_taffy.php . Never mind that the recipe I chose had poor grammar and formatting. Was the author’s candy-making skill better than their writing? One hopes.
So with everything in the pot (sweetened condensed milk, molasses – I used the cooking variety – and salt) I began stirring constantly as the recipe instructed. Very shortly the liquid started looking a bit… grainy. ”That’s not right, is it?” I wondered. The next 30 minutes or so I was very nervous. My inner monologue went something like this:
“Hmm, come to think of it most candy recipes say not to stir at all. Am I remembering that correctly? Maybe this stirring isn’t such a good idea. Oh well, I’ll stick to the recipe.”
“Hmm, this is definitely looking even grainier. Is this the dreaded crystallization of the sugar that I’ve read about? Am I going to end up with a sugar-glue-rock in my pot?”
“Hmmm, most recipes seem to talk about that ‘washing the sides of the pot down’ business. This one doesn’t. The goo sticking to the sides of the pot seems too thick to wash down. I guess I’ll trust the recipe.”
“I hope this isn’t burning”.
“Why is it taking so long to reach 235?!”
The magic 235 was finally reached, so I executed an inconclusive cold-water test and poured the mess out into a buttered pan where it is now cooling. So far, so good… I think? Next up the pulling!
Okay, so I have to admit that this step was pretty fun. Here’s how it goes: when the candy has cooled just enough to be handled you form it into a rope and then proceed to fold it over on itself, twisting it up, and pulling it out again. This process goes on for 5-10 minutes and incorporates air into the candy. As the air content increases the colour of the candy lightens, and the texture becomes lighter and chewier. You need lots of butter for this stage so that you don’t end up kneading a sticky mess. I love how recipes imply that the butter is just there as a release agent. You an I both know that plenty ends up being worked into the taffy.
(Before and after pulling)
Once it was sufficiently pulled, I formed it back into ropes and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I crushed some of my coarse smoked sea salt on a saucer and up-ended each taffy onto the crystals, then wrapped each candy up in wax paper.
I have to say, they’re delicious. They’re a bit softer than the salt water taffy I sampled, which I like, but that may be because they’re still fresh and warm. They’re not too sweet, and have a nice bite from the molasses. The crunch of the salt is a nice contrast to the smooth creamyness of the taffy. Looks like molasses came through for me again!