Taffy
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/TNS

As a child, candy-making at Christmas was a memorable time. Everyone in our family had his or her favorite, which they usually shared. I enjoyed them all, but nothing could compare with my dad’s taffy.

I was told that he bought the special recipe from a German candymaker for $5. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but remember that this was almost 100 years ago. I am proud to say that I still have the special iron pot that my dad used for his specialty.

This is a candy that, once you learn to make it, you will want to pass the recipe down from generation to generation. You can change the flavors by simply using different extracts, such as lemon, strawberry or black walnut. Dad would sometimes add a little food coloring to the strawberry-and-lemon taffy.

When it is time to stretch the taffy, be sure to have a partner to help pull it, because this is a tiring task.

If you don’t have the time to perfect the taffy for Christmas, perhaps you will enjoy making bon bons. You can vary the bon bons by adding minced cherries and almonds to the vanilla cream filling. If you don’t feel confident about using “real” chocolate to coat the bon bons, you can use candy melts or white and dark coatings, such as used in the following recipe.

Both of these delicious candies make wonderful gifts.

DAD’S TAFFY

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter a large baking sheet. In a black iron pot (about 2-quart size) combine sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and butter. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla extract. Immediately pour onto baking sheet.

Allow to cool slightly until edges become firm enough to pull toward the center of the pan. Continue pulling taffy toward center of pan until firm enough to handle. This mixture will be very hot, so be careful when handling it. Don’t butter your hands because this makes it difficult to pull the taffy. The taffy, when ready to be pulled, should not stick to your hands.

Holding the taffy in both hands, stretch it to about 12 inches, fold and stretch again. As it starts to pull together easier, you can stretch it to 18 inches. Continue the stretching and folding until the taffy turns white and is no longer sticky.

On a lightly oiled surface (a Formica countertop works well) stretch the taffy until it forms a long rope that is about ¾ inches in diameter. When hardened, lift one end of the rope and gently tap with the handle of a knife, breaking taffy in sticks that are about 2 ½ inches long. Roll each piece of taffy in a small square of wax paper and twist ends.

BON BONS

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 (14 ounce) package coconut
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • White and dark coatings (or candy melts)

Combine sugar, coconut and condensed milk in large bowl. Mix until thoroughly blended. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 hours or until firm enough to shape into balls. Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Roll filling into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate until firm. Melt coating and dip each ball, coating it well. Place on wax paper until set. Decorate as desired. Makes about 3 ½ dozen.

Award-winning chef Prudence Hilburn’s cooking column appears every other week. Contact her at prudencehilburn@aol.com.