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Cheap Christmas Presents

by admin on December 23, 2009

This year we are trying to be as frugal as possible, without having to skip “gift giving” all together.  We are going to bake.  Or, should I say, boil, as we’re actually going to be making candy.  Taffy is our specialty.  (We’ve made it a whopping two times!)  We are going to make banana, peppermint, cinnamon, and possibly butterscotch, if we can find some flavoring for it.  We are planning on wrapping them individually, just like you see in the stores. 

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We’ll start early tomorrow morning, because it’s bound to take us all day to prepare, cook, cool, stretch, and wrap all of it.  I am so excited!

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As it turns out, taffy isn’t as difficult to make as most people make it out to be.  The key is having a good candy thermometer, and placing it deep enough in the mixture to get a good temperature read while cooking.  I suppose that once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you might be able to just eyeball it, but I’m no where near that talented yet.  I’ll get there, I’ll get there.

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The last time we made it, it turned out so delicious, that I had to actually tell Patrick to bring it with him to work, because I knew that if I was alone with it at home all day, I would eat it all.  Isn’t that pathetic?

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Here’s how it’s done:

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  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I use coconut oil, or soy free Earth Balance)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla or other flavoring

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Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a large saucepan.  Stir until boiling, and wash down any undissolved sugar from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.  Add the butter (or substitue) and continue boiling without stirring until the candy thermometer registers 256 to 264 degrees.  (I like mine around 260)

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The lower temperature will give a chewier taffy, and the higher heat a more brittle product. Turn out on a marble slab or large platter or pan that has been oiled well with oil.  (I use coconut oil for this, as well)  A few drops of food coloring can also be added to the top of the candy now, but I’d skip this unless you are giving it as a gift, and want it to look fancier.  (Don’t need the extra dye!)

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The edge of the taffy will cool fairly quickly, and when it can be comfortably touched with well-oiled fingers, turn it inward to form a mass. (Taffy is ready to pull as soon as it can be handled, which is usually sooner than expected.) Grease your fingers and hands WELL!  You’ll probably like the flavor of butter for this, although margarine or oil can be used.  Take the warm, flowing candy up with the fingertips and pull out about 12 inches at first.  Quickly turn the candy back from the fingertips of one hand to the other hand, then catch the center and again pull, always with the tips of your fingers.  (Just like the machine does at SixFlags!)   This incorporates air in the mixture and gives it the typical, fluffy texture.

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When the taffy is very hard to pull and will hold its shape if laid out on the marble slab or pan, it is ready to break off into pieces, but it preferably should be cut with greased scissors.  If making several colors of taffy, you may pull each out until thin and then twist them together.  For a completely round candy, like a peppermint candystick or cane, roll this twisted mixture on the marble slab to make it even.  (If you are trying to make candy canes, make sure you cook the candy to the higher temperature, so it’s harder.)  Store taffy in airtight containers, such as cookie tins, between sheets of wax paper or foil, for any moisture in the air will make it quite sticky.   It is for this reason that taffy is generally sold with the pieces wrapped individually.

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To make Salt Water Taffy add 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt to the recipe.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

admin January 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Thanks! I’m glad things look nice – I’m working on it!

Jorge Salas January 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Refreshing webpage. My co-workers and I were just discussing this the other evening. Also your site looks good on my old sidekick. Now thats uncommon. Keep it up.

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