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ball of finished taffy on baking mat

Basic taffy or fruit chews (for home kitchens)

Mr Dach
This is a recipe for the world’s simplest taffy — chewy candy in its most stripped-down, essential form.
Depending on what you're looking for, it isn't necessarily a recipe for the world’s finest taffy. Make this to get a feel for this style of candy at its most basic, before the addition of complicating factors like starches and other gelling agents, glycerin, dairy, or egg whites.
This makes a small batch of about 20 large or 40 smaller pieces. You can double or triple it with no issues other than working up more of a sweat. US imperial measurements and w/w percentages are provided in parantheses.
One word about expectations: put aside any thought of making a tidy little square chew like Starburst or Chewits or Fruittella. Those generally require industrial cutting and wrapping machinery. Your final product here is going to be much more malleable, and regardless of how you cut it will relax into an organic shape after wrapping.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Servings 40 small pieces

Equipment

  • Small saucepan or saucier with lid (fill no more than half to allow for sufficient headspace during boiling)
  • Wooden spoon or silicon spatula (never metal)
  • Kitchen scale with one gram increments (optional but recommended)
  • Accurate kitchen thermometer
  • Large silicon baking mat (or non-porous, sanitized, heat-proof counter top, very lightly greased)
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Non-stick uncoated parchment paper
  • Large mug filled with hot water

Ingredients
  

  • 275 grams glucose syrup (¾ US cup + 2 tbsp / 54%) • any light-coloured corn syrup, tapioca syrup, wheat syrup, or potato syrup; details here
  • 140 grams granulated sugar (¾ cup / 27%) • refined white sugar is the most predictable
  • 60 ml distilled water (¼ cup / 12%) • tap water will do
  • 35 grams solid fat (¼ cup / 7%) • palm oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or unsalted butter are recommended; details here
  • ~0.1 grams powdered or liquid lecithin (one pinch or drop / 0%)
  • concentrated flavouring to taste
  • optional: salt or food acid to taste • pulverized in a mortar or high-powered blender
  • optional: colouring as needed

Instructions
 

  • Combine sugars. Mix the glucose syrup, sugar, and water in a small sauce pot. Cover with a lid, and bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. Try not to get the sugar stuck to the rim or walls of the pot.
  • Dissolve thoroughly. After a minute or so of cooking, lift the lid carefully, stir gently, and confirm that all of the sugar has completely dissolved. If any sugar remains, return the lid and boil for another 30 seconds. The goal is to allow the steam to wash any rogue granules of sugar down into the syrup. A single granule of undissolved sugar can make the whole batch crystallize like fondant, which you do not want. (Alternatively, you can use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pot. That’s the traditional method, but I find the steam method is more reliable and less messy.)
  • Add the fat and lecithin. Once all of the sugar is dissolved, set aside the lid and add the fat and lecithin. Stir to incorporate, making sure at all times that any utensil that touches the syrup does not have any undissolved sugar on it.
  • Cook to 118°C / 244°F. Stir gently every once in a while. If you prefer firmer chews, you can cook it two or three degrees higher. (If you live above 300m / 1000 ft elevation or the current conditions are very humid, see the note below.)
  • Add optional salt or acid. Once you’ve reached 118°C / 244°F, immediately remove from the heat. Add in any powdered salt or acid, and stir to incorporate. 
  • Pour onto the baking mat. The hot syrup won’t spread as much as you might think, but give yourself plenty of room to work and make a mess.
  • Allow to cool partially, then add flavour and colour. This is a judgment call you’ll have to make yourself. You want the candy to cool as much as possible so that you don’t damage or flash off (evaporate) the delicate volatile compounds in your flavouring of choice. But, if you wait too long, the candy will start becoming too firm to effectively add the flavouring; this is especially true with liquid flavourings. My advice? Check the surface of the candy with your spatula until it starts to get difficult to spread, then quickly work in the flavouring and colouring. Between 60–80°C / 140–176°F is ideal. (Tips on flavouring here.)
  • Leave it alone. At this stage, the taffy will look like a gooey disaster and you’ll think you’ve botched it. You haven’t. Unlike hard candy, taffy needs to approach room temperature to be firm enough to handle. Go watch a few Youtube videos.
  • Pull! Once the taffy is cool, you can finally start to pull it. If you’re working on a silicon mat, you can fold it in half like an omelette a few times to get the process started before picking it up. If you’re working on a countertop or marble slab, you may need to sacrifice some of the sticky candy to the counter; if so move to a new, clean, lightly oiled section to work. Pull for 20-30 minutes until light, opaque, and satiny. (Detailed tips on pulling here.)
  • Cut and wrap. Using very lightly oiled scissors, divide the candy into more workable quarters or thirds then roll and stretch it into finger-thick ropes. Cut the rope into even pieces, then immediately wrap each piece in a square of parchment paper, twisting off both ends. Store them in an air-tight container to stop them from getting soft and sticky from humidity.

Notes

  • Crystallization. You’ll see some recipes and videos online that get you to treat the cooking syrup like a landmine that’s about to go off, lest you shock it into crystallizing. This taffy is really not that sensitive to crystallization, thanks to the high proportion of glucose syrup. As long as you are careful not to let undissolved sugar get into the batch, you’ll be fine.
  • What’s the mug of hot water for? I find it handy for holding utensils and the thermometer probe when they’re not in use; this helps prevent sugar grains from finding their way into the batch, and also stops your tools from getting gummed up with too much candy.
  • Using coconut oil? Withhold coconut oil (or other lauric fats like palm kernel oil) until the final minute of cooking; you may end up with a greasier product, but at least the batch won’t be ruined. (Details here.)
  • Colour or flavour too wimpy? You can usually get away with adjusting either during the pulling process by adding more, little by little, and working it through. Taffy can soak up a surprising amount of colouring; I suggest either going light overall or colouring a portion of the taffy more intensely and adding it as a stripe in the final candy.
  • Adjusting for altitude and humidity. For each 300 m above sea level, reduce the finish temperature by 1°C. (Or, for each 1,000 ft, reduce the finish temperature by 2°F.) At very high altitudes you may need to experiment a little with target temperature to get a satisfactory result. On very humid days, you can combat stickiness by cooking the candy a few degrees higher; it will subsequently soften as it is exposed to the air during pulling.
Keyword candy, confectionery, fruit chews, sweets, taffy