Want a unique party idea for your child’s birthday—or even her next weekend sleepover with friends? Try hosting your own taffy pull. It can get pretty messy, but kids absolutely love it.
Just follow these steps to minimize the mess and maximize the fun!
1. Stock Up on Supplies.
If you don’t already own basic candy making tools, stocking up is pretty easy. You’ll need a medium-size saucepan (3 or 4 quarts) with a heavy bottom and straight sides. You’ll also need a long-handled wooden spoon, a pastry brush (used to brush off any crystals that might form), and a good candy thermometer with a metal clamp that attaches to the side of your saucepan.
Next, go shopping for taffy ingredients. For the recipe in this article, you’ll need to pick up the following: sugar, corn syrup, salt, unsalted butter, flavoring extracts (vanilla, raspberry, and lemon), food coloring (red and yellow work nicely), flour, wax paper, and candy wrappers.
2. Prepare Your Kitchen.
If you resign yourself to the fact that this party is going to get messy, you’ll be in the right mindset to just relax and let the kids have fun. Still, there are a few simple steps you can take to minimize the mess.
First, lay down several painter’s cloths, taping the edges to protect every inch of your floor. Next, sprinkle a light layer of flour over the painter’s cloths—this will help keep everyone’s shoes from sticking to the cloths when the inevitable spills occur. Finally, tape down some wax paper over the table or countertop where you plan to start your taffy pull.
3. Make Your Favorite Taffy Recipe.
The process of making taffy can be a little tricky for young ones. I suggest making the taffy yourself, and after the candy has cooled, call in the kids to start the pulling.
Here’s a classic recipe for saltwater taffy. Try it!
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cups corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Flavoring and coloring as desired
- 1 teaspoon salt
Measure 2 cups sugar, l 1/4 cups corn syrup, 3/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt into a saucepan and blend well with a wooden spoon. Place over low heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring continuously. Increase the heat and do not stir during the rest of the cooking. Wash the sides of the pan with a brush or fork covered with muslin and dipped in water, using an upward motion. This will prevent the formation of crystals which might cause the candy to sugar. After the syrup boils put in the candy thermometer, and when the thermometer registers 265 degrees, remove candy from heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and stir very gently. Divide the taffy into three parts; you’ll add different flavors and coloring to each one during the pulling process.
4. Prepare The Little Ones.
First, have everyone wash his or her hands with lots of soap and warm water. Then, let them grease their hands generously with a stick of unsalted butter to prevent the fresh taffy from sticking to fingers. Don’t use vegetable oil or margarine for this step—the flavor when mixed with taffy isn’t nearly as good as real butter.
5. Let The Pulling Begin!
Once the taffy has cooled enough to handle, it’s time to start pulling. Instruct your party-goers to use only their fingertips to lift the edges of the warm, flowing candy up, and then to pull out about 12 inches. Then, they’ll quickly fold the taffy back from the one hand to the other, catching the center, and then pulling again.
If you’re adding food coloring and flavoring, pause briefly after a few pulls to add a drop or two to the mixture, folding the mixture over on the color and flavor. Try using raspberry flavor with red coloring, lemon flavor with yellow coloring, and vanilla flavor with no coloring. Continue to pull until the color and flavor are thoroughly mixed in.
6. Wrap it Up.
When your taffy is very hard to pull and holds its shape when laid out on a platter, it’s ready to cut into pieces. Rub a pair of kitchen scissors with unsalted butter, and then cut the hardened taffy into bite-size pieces. Have the kids wrap the pieces in candy wrappers, twisting each end. (You can also use wax paper or colored plastic wrap.)
Now you can fill small baggies with the taffy, and send each child home with their own homemade party favor!