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What is Taffy?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Taffy is a type of candy characterized by a sweet flavor and an infamously chewy texture. This candy is available in many candy stores and supermarkets, and it can also be made at home, for people who enjoy candymaking. It comes in a variety of flavors and colors, including blended candies in which the candy is patterned in swirls and other designs.

This candy is made by making a syrup of sugar and butter or oil, cooking it to the soft crack stage, pouring it out, and stretching it. Stretching can be done with a machine or by hand. As the candy is stretched, it acquires a light, fluffy texture. The candy is manipulated into thick strips which are cut apart into individual pieces. Traditionally, taffy was made with molasses, and had a strong molasses flavor. Today, it can be made from sugar or even corn syrup, depending on the manufacturer. It may be lightly starched before being wrapped, to prevent it from sticking to the wrappers if it warms up.

Plain taffy has a fairly unremarkable flavor, other than the natural sweetness. Flavorings can be added to the candy, including chocolate, vanilla, and various fruit extracts. For patterned candy, strips of multicolored taffy can be worked together and then cut apart for a pattern. In a simple example, sheets of two colors could be rolled up together to make swirl taffy, and in more complex versions, the patterns can take on floral shapes and other designs.

Taffy is famously chewy and it can get sticky when it gets warm. Some people enjoy eating chilled taffy, which has a very different texture from room temperature or warm taffy. A specialty product, saltwater taffy, was historically made with saltwater. This created an interesting juxtaposition of salty and sweet which some candy fans enjoyed. Today, saltwater may not necessarily be used, and some people are actually surprised to taste the traditional saltwater version.

People who would like to make this chewy candy at home will need some specialized equipment. A candy thermometer is a must, as is a pot for boiling the syrup in, and it helps to have a marble slab to work the candy on. It is also important to be careful about handling the taffy, because when the candy is still hot, it can act effectively like napalm, sticking to the skin and causing very severe burns. It is important to wear protective gloves, and to work the candy with a paddle until it is cool enough to stretch by hand.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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