Monday, June 1, 2009

Pull Taffy

After a haircut, we go to the candy store to pick out a little treat.

When I was little, we used to go to Clarence's in Raleigh, North Carolina, and get tiny brown bags full of penny candy: Mary Janes, wax lips, tootsie rolls, bazooka bubblegum, red hots, tiny wax soda bottles with colorful sweet liquid inside, dumdums, and pixy stix. But a lot of the candy was small then. Now there is super-sized candy. Look at the Pixy Stix below. They are about two feet tall. They used to be the size of a drinking straw.

Chocolate coins tasted fine before we knew what really good chocolate tasted like.

This candy store will weigh loose candy just like in the old days.

Have you ever had a taffy pull? My patient mother used to let us do taffy pulls in the kitchen when I was a girl. It's a sticky mess, but awfully fun. Pulling taffy is an old-fashioned American pastime.

It is best to pull taffy in cool dry weather.

Vanilla Molasses Taffy

1 and a half cups sugar
1 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tb. vinegar
2 tb. butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
medium sized pot
candy thermometer (optional)
large baking pan

1. Mix sugar, molasses, water and vinegar in pot and stir over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil. As mixture heats, its volume will nearly double. Turn the heat down as necessary to keep the mixture from boiling over. If you have a candy thermometer, attach it to the pot, being sure the thermometer bulb is in the mixture but not touching the sides or bottom of pot. Let mixture heat until the thermometer reads "soft crack" or 275 degrees F. Be patient. It may take 30 minutes or more. If you don't have a candy thermometer, use the water-drop method. After the mixture has been boiling for about 15 minutes, spoon a little out and let it drip into a cup of cold water. The candy ball that forms in the water should be firm and hard. Then the mixture is ready. Keep testing until you get it right.

2. Turn off the heat and stir the butter, baking soda, and the vanilla into the mixture.

3. Butter the bottom and sides of a large baking pan and pour the taffy mixture into the pan to cool for twenty to thirty minutes.

4. When the taffy is not too hot to be handled (but not cool), butter your hands (all taffy pullers should do the same,) and pick up the taffy. Pull the taffy into long strips, and then fold and squeeze it into a large lump. Continue to pull the taffy again and again until it turns much lighter in color and begins to pull apart.

5. Stretch and twist the taffy into long skinny rolls, then cut the rolls into small chewable pieces using a buttered kitchen knife or scissors. Wrap each of the candy pieces in waxed paper.

This recipe is from Steven Caney's book Kids' America.

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