Taffy talk 3: What are all of those other ingredients in fruit chews?

I’m back with another epic post about taffy, and also a promise that it’s my last damned epic post about taffy — at least for the foreseeable future. 

We’ve already covered the essentials of what makes a taffy or chew. And while it does takes some elbow grease, it’s not a mind-blowingly complex recipe.

However, if you pay attention to ingredient labelling on commercial taffy or chews, you will see a fair number of secondary ingredients pop up over and over. Let’s take a boo at some of those.

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How do you make fruit chews? Here are the six essential ingredients of taffy and a stripped-down recipe.

As a general rule, I don’t have any plans to share a bunch of candy recipes here — the internet is already bursting with them.

But for taffy I’m making a wee exception. The trouble with making taffy or fruit chews is that even good recipes vary wildly, with so many confusing secondary ingredients that it can be hard to see the internal logic churning away underneath it all.

So, I’ve put together a stripped-down, no-bells-no-whistles “master recipe” for home cooking. Depending on what exactly you’re looking for, this may or may not make the world’s finest taffy. The point is to really lay bare the essentials of a solid taffy recipe. 

Continue reading How do you make fruit chews? Here are the six essential ingredients of taffy and a stripped-down recipe.

What is taffy? Let’s make some sense of this oddly confounding chewy sweet.

I’ve been spending a whole mess of time perfecting my taffy recipe lately, and whenever some poor soul gets me going about it, the first question is almost always the same: “Wait, what’s taffy again?”

For such a prosaic candy — you can buy some version of it quite literally at every gas station and corner shop across much of the world — taffy has a bit of an identity problem.

First, it doesn’t have a clear, unambiguous category name, at least not in English. (Unlike, say, gummies. Use that word and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.)

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Respectin’ the pectin (and playing with pâte de fruit)

Traditional pâte de fruits have a lot going for them. Namely, they’re made with a high proportion of fruit, which translates into complex and often intense flavour that retains much of the character of a particular harvest.

That said, they aren’t my go-to jelly candy. As I went on and on about in my last post, they’ve got a few big things working against them.

  • Sweating. It isn’t just about aesthetics. Sweating leads to crustiness, sugar crystallization, and can contribute to spoilage from too much water activity.
  • Flabbiness. Traditional pâte de fruit is very tender, to the point of basically blowing apart in your mouth with zero resistance. After two bites, I think it can get pretty gross.
  • Jamminess. Cooked flavours are great in the right context (yay, pie). But heat destroys fresh, bright flavours and tends to erase the distinctions between different harvests, cultivars, or wild strains.

And yet, I’m not ready to give up on pâte de fruits. It’s still great stuff, and there’s definitely a kind of romance to the idea of cooking down little else but fruit and sugar and, ta-da, out comes candy.

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On pâte de fruits (and the trouble with pectin)

Oh, pâte de fruits. I love ya, you big sweet sticky blob — I really do.

You’ve managed to claw your way up near the top of the sugar confectionery pyramid, where you breath the same rarified, Frenchified air as calissons and Bar-le-duc jelly.

You can be found taking a place of pride on the mignardises plate alongside the usual truffles and petits fours — the sole candy deemed worthy of doing so by the types of restaurants that need words like mignardise.

Pretty damn good for a something that started life as overcooked jam.

But, let’s be honest here. As a single, sweet, intense morsel at the end of a fatty meal, you’re aces. As a candy, though, you could use a bit of work.

Continue reading On pâte de fruits (and the trouble with pectin)