Taffy is a candy made from water, butter, and either sugar or molasses.
Some commercial makers may use corn syrup as the sweetener, and fats other than butter (such as vegetable oils.) Flavourings such as lemon, vanilla, etc, may be added, especially in America.
To make taffy, you boil the sweetener, water and fat in a pot until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage of 245 – 250 F (123 – 125 C.)
You then let the mixture cool, either in the pan, or on a slab or in a tray, until it is lukewarm and cool enough to handle safely (but not set.) You then need to pull the Taffy to develop its texture.
To do this at home, you butter your hands, and use your fingers tips (only) to pull the mixture out about a foot (30 cm.) Then fold what you pulled back into the centre, then pull again. It takes about 20 minutes until the mixture is too hard to pull and is set.
The mixture will lighten somewhat in colour throughout the process, and at the end of process, it will be less sticky.
Then, you cut and serve, or wrap pieces in greaseproof or waxed paper for storage.
Taffy pulls were social occasions.
They were traditional in Wales at Christmas in the 1800s. The taffy was called cyflaith (treacle taffy) as treacle was the sweetener used. Christmas Eve, when the Taffy pulls were held, was referred to as “Noson Gyflaith” (Taffy Evening.)
In Québec, Taffy pulls partly became transformed into events at maple syrup cabins in the early spring known as “tire à sucre”, with hot maple syrup poured over snow to thicken it, and it being rolled off the snow with a stick. Actual Taffy pulls were traditional in Québec on Ste-Catharine’s day each year, the 25th of November.
Caramels, Butterscotch, Taffy, Toffee
- Caramel and Taffy are soft; they are cooked to a firm-ball stage of 245 – 250 F (123 – 125 C);
- Butterscotch is harder; it is cooked to a soft-crack stage of 270 – 290 F (132 – 143 C);
- Toffee is hardest of the four candies; it is cooked to a hard crack stage of 300 to 310 F (150 to 160 C.)
A further difference between Taffy and Toffee is that Taffy is pulled; Toffee is poured into a mould.
High altitude: For every 1,000 feet (300 metres) that you are above sea level, subtract 2 degrees F (1 degree C) from the temperatures given in your candy recipe.
Literature & Lore
In Wales, having taffy pulls was traditional on Christmas Eve in the 1800s.