Homemade Salt Water Taffy is not only a fun and delicious activity it can also be a chemistry lesson: The Effect of Temperature and Torsion on a Saccharide.
The first time I made salt water taffy was in high school chemistry class the day before winter break. Most of my classmates still remember it fondly.
Through the grace of Facebook, I was able to track down my chemistry teacher, Mr. Ulrich, and obtain a copy of the experiment complete with cooking term translation for those that haven't been in a chemistry class in decades (me!)
If you want the actual chemistry experiment, using terms like "reagent" and "moles", it is below the recipe with kitchen ingredients and measurements.
Taffy Making Tips
- Be careful doubling or tripling this. It is better to make a few smaller batches unless you have plenty of hands to help with the pulling.
- Use lots of margarine, butter or oil on the pan and your hands.
- Use a good candy thermometer like this one or this one.
- Have fun and don't worry about the results too much.
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- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup corn syrup
- ¼ cup water
- pinch salt
- food coloring
- extracts (vanilla, peppermint, coconut, banana, licorice, etc.)
- margarine (or butter, oil or coconut oil for coating your hands and the pan)
- Place the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a small saucepan with a candy thermometer attached to the pan (be sure to have it raised off of the bottom of the pan). Mix thoroughly until the sugar has dissolved, stirring constantly. Increase the heat and do not stir during the rest of the heating. You may wipe down any crystals that form on the sides of the pan as it heats.
- Heat until the thermometer registers 270℉. While the mixture heats, liberally grease a small pan (pie pan, cookie sheet for a toaster oven, make one out of aluminum foil) with ½ tablespoon margarine.
- As soon as the mixture reaches 270℉, remove from the heat, and add ½ tablespoon of margarine while stirring gently. Pour the mixture into the pan and allow to cool.
- When the mixture is cool enough to touch the top, take approximately 1 ml of your favorite flavoring and 3 drops of your desired color and sprinkle them across the mixture. (Estimate the 1 ml - do not try to measure it.). You don't need to blend it yet, it will blend while pulling.
- Coat your hands with the remaining margarine. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, begin to pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold, pull and fold. It's going to take awhile!
- When the mixture takes on a satin sheen, pull off bite-size pieces and devour or wrap in plastic wrap.
- 110 milliliters sucrose (sugar)
- 1 milliliters NaCl (salt)
- 74 milliliters glucose (corn syrup)
- 48 milliliters H2O (water)
- food coloring
- 1 ½ tablespoon hydrogenated vegetable oil (margarine - or butter, coconut oil or vegetable oil)
- 4-hydroxy-3methoxybenzaldehyde (vanilla)
- 3-ppmethanol (peppermint)
- isoamyl acetate (banana)
- methyl salicylate (wintergreen)
- glycyrrhezec acid (licorice)
- hesperidin (lemon)
- Place the first four reagents in the large beaker. Thoroughly mix with stirring rod. Place over gentle to moderate flame until all the sucrose has dissolved, stirring constantly. Increase the heat and do not stir during the rest of the heating. The stirring rod may be used to keep crystals from forming on the sides of the beaker at the beginning of the experiment.
- When the solution begins to boil, insert the thermometer (Don't let it touch the bottom of the beaker or you will get the temperature of the hot beaker rather than the solution). Heat until the thermometer registers 270℉.
- While heating, prepare an aluminum foil pan and lubricate with hydrogenated vegetable oil. (The pan is made out of aluminum foil by bending up the edges about 1" all the way around.)
- You will need 1 & ½ slices of margarine which you will be given already divided in 3 parts. One for the mixture after reaching 270℉ (next step), one piece of margarine for the pan, and one part for you & your lab partners hands, when you are ready to pull the taffy, NOT now.
- As soon as the beaker reaches 270℉, remove the heat, and add one slice of hydrogenated vegetable oil while stirring gently. The darkening of the mixture indicates the carbonization of some of the saccharide molecules and this color should not get dark brown, as it then begins to taste burnt.
- Pour the mixture onto the aluminum foil pan using the big beaker tongs. When the beaker is empty place the beaker in the hot soapy water at your lab table along with the thermometer and stirring rod. (Start washing the beaker & other materials NOW as taffy is cooling).
- When the mixture is cool enough to touch the top, take approximately 1 ml of your favorite flavoring* and 3 drops of your desired color* (you may wish to bring your favorite from home) and sprinkle them across the mixture. (Estimate the 1 ml- do not try to measure it.) Do not attempt to mix these last two reagents, as they will become mixed as you pull the mixture.
- Each team member should now lubricate their hands with the remaining hydrogenated vegetable oil. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, begin to pull and fold, pull and fold. This allows the molecules to align themselves and add air to the mixture.
- When the mixture takes on a satin sheen, pull off bit-size pieces and wrap in plastic wrap. Options may be to build a candy cane. Your imagination may provide an interesting option to this experiment. Consume the product.
- Make sure your lab bench is just as you found it, thermometer and stir stick in the beaker, a new bag of sucrose and one piece of aluminum foil. All paper towels in the trash and the lab bench free of taffy, sugar, etc. Carefully dump the wash water into your lab sink. Place the green scrub pads on the lab top near the sink edge and take the pans to the back lab table.
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Until next time, happy eating!