Valentine's Day has always held a very special place in my heart. Growing up I was never taught that Valentine's Day was just a holiday to celebrate romantic relationships, but rather one to celebrate all of the meaningful people in your life.
In elementary school we use to have Valentine's Day parties where we'd make little mailboxes that would be used to receive valentines from all of our classmates. I have a very vivid memory of staying up all night to cut out mini versions of my school picture to place inside of each of my handmade valentines. So that when my classmates were opening up their valentines later that day in search of candy, instead what they would find was a picture of my face. You know, the sweetest gift of all. I'm still exploring the reason for this inexplicable need to show my face to everyone with my therapist. I'll post updates as I find out more.
I don't print out pictures of my face to give to people anymore, because first of all I am not a creep (anymore) and also because I have instagram now (@sugarandsatire), but I do still enjoy the idea of telling the people I care about, that I appreciate having them in my life. That's why Valentine's Day is the perfect holiday. We get to wear the prettiest color of all (pink), eat candy, and hang out with the people we love. I've spent many a Valentine's Day with my closest friends, drinking champagne, eating heart shaped pizzas, and playing card games until we're so full of candy that we can't even stand up.
Some occasions are too important to pass up, and Galentine's Day, the sister holiday of Valentine's Day, is one of them. If you're not familiar, Galentine's Day originated in a Parks and Recreation episode, in which Leslie Knope takes all her gal pals out to kick it breakfast style and show her appreciation for them. Ever since the first time I saw that episode, I knew it was a tradition I wanted to implement. Can you believe it's taken me until 2017 to actually do it?
But here's the problem. Usually when I think of a party I think of the events I'd attend in College, or the *only* party I went to in high school. Loud music, binge drinking, dancing, sweaty crowds of people, all things I do my best to avoid at all costs. And it's not to say that those kinds of parties aren't fun, I'm sure plenty of people have a great time, just that it's not my type of occasion. I'm used to very small social events. Where three or four people come over for set amount of time, and I'm in complete control of the itinerary. My brain just works better that way, but it's totally understandable that not very many people want to come to a "party" like that.
So here comes Rachael, a friend I made when I moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. I've made appearances at a few of the parties she's hosted (I immediately regret phrasing it like that), and have always been impressed with her keen eye for detail, and knack for making any space feel homey and stylish. Rachael coincidentally has a new blog called Entertain the Idea, where she shares DIY decorations, styling and videos for any and every occasion. I reached out to her about a month ago and told her I wanted to have a Galentine's Day Taffy Pull, but I needed her help. She agreed to take on the task of making my teeny tiny apartment look cute, and I promised to come up with a vegan taffy recipe that could accommodate a crowd.
Guess what? We suceeded.
Something just clicked that day. I prepared by spending about a week testing batch after batch of taffy, while Rachael came up with some really beautifully thought out decorations. At one point, about two hours before people were set to arrive, I had to make a quick run to the grocery store. I left right as Rachael was setting up, and when I came back my apartment had been transformed into the cutest and brightest little space. We had a beautifully styled food table, decorative banners strung across the ceiling, custom designed temporary tattoos, a photo backdrop made of carnival tickets, decorative homemade pinwheels and to-go boxes for the ladies to take their homemade taffy home in.
The most time consuming activity was definitely the taffy making, in fact I spent almost the entire party in the kitchen stirring the candy and praying it wouldn't burn. As each batch cooled , we'd all take turns buttering up our hands and pulling the taffy until it reached the perfect consistency. Then, with carefully buttered scissors, we'd cut little pieces and wrap them up in wax paper.
You're curious about this taffy pulling business aren't you? It's something my grandma off handedly told me she used to do with her friends when she was growing up, and it is the most perfect thing I can think of. It's relatively easy to do, and is a really fun way to keep a crowd busy. I researched a lot of taffy recipes online, and experimented with quite a few different temperatures before I got the perfect taffy consistency at 240 degrees F, just after reaching the soft ball stage. I found an amazing source for vegan and allergen friendly food flavorings, called Nature's Flavors, and I purchased the lemonade, strawberry and cherry cola flavors to make the taffy for this party.
Overall, this was by far the most incredible event I've ever hosted. I had SO much fun working with Rachael, and I can't wait to plan something together again soon. Listen guys, if someone like me managed to invite a group of humans over, not lose my mind, and not force my guests to walk away with miniature photos of my face, you'll definitely be able to make it happen.
makes about 50-60 small pieces of taffy
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon vegan butter (plus loads more for buttering everything in sight)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- food coloring (Wilton gel coloring is vegan friendly)
- flavoring (Nature's Flavors brand is vegan friendly)
- wax paper
- baking dish (for taffy to cool in)
- plastic or latex gloves
- Candy Thermometer (I use this one I found on Amazon, I love it so much more than my old mercury based one.)
Prepare a small baking dish by buttering the entire surface area, set aside. Then, cut out wax paper into small square. I like to leave a plate of butter out to come to room temperature at this point too.
In a medium sized saucepan, combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove immediately from heat and add in desired food coloring and flavoring. Pour the hot liquid candy into the prepared baking dish and allow the candy to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, put on a pair of gloves and lather them up with butter. This is make sure that the taffy doesn't stick to your hands. Divide the taffy into halves or quarters (depending on how many people are pulling) and start stretching the taffy. Stretch and pull, almost like you're chewing a piece of gum, but with your hands. As you do this you will notice the translucent color turning into something more opaque. Stretch for about 15-20 minutes, or until the taffy has reached the desired consistency. Your arms will start getting tired at this point too!
When your taffy is ready, butter a pair of scissors and carefully cut out small logs of taffy. Wrap in the pieces of wax paper by rolling it up and then twisting each side. The taffy is ready to eat immediately, and will store in an airtight container for about 10 days.
- If you want to make different flavors, it's better just to make separate batches, rather than to try and split up the recipe while making it. The window of time in which flavoring is added, the candy is simply too hot to mess around with safely.
- I tried 5 times to find the perfect temperature for this taffy. 230-235 degrees F was way too soft, and the taffy barely held its shape. 245-255 degrees F was was too hard, and the taffy was impossible to pull before it turned rock solid.
- If you don't have any fancy flavorings, any basic extract will work. I recommend about 1 teaspoon of whatever extract you are using to flavor a batch this size.
- Don't skip out on the gloves! They made clean up so much easier! If you don't have gloves, be prepared to butter your hands into eternity, and then spend the same amount of time cleaning taffy out from underneath your fingernails.
- From start to finish one batch of taffy will take about 60-90 minutes. The most time consuming part is actually bringing the candy to the correct temperature and it's important you do this slowly in order to prevent burning.
- Use boiling water to clean your pots and dishes after you finish, it will help clean up the hardened taffy quickly!
Additional photos taken by Brianna Brennan.
This post is not sponsored by any of the above mentioned brands, I just really enjoy the products and have had success with them. However, this post does use a few affiliate links, which means that when you click them and buy the aforementioned product I receive a small portion of the sale, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Sugar & Satire as it grows.