Marisa Wu of Salty Road started making saltwater taffy after she took a job with Liddabit Sweets and went from being a "chocolate girl" to falling hard for "aerated candy: nougat, marshmallows, and eventually taffy." Wanting to start her own company, Wu realized that no one around New York was making small batch taffy so, she says, "I did and it turned out awesome and I really liked making it, so all of a sudden I had a company."
The road to artisanal taffy success wasn't quite as smooth as it sounds, though. Wu started with a variety of different recipes and tinkered with them until she got a product she was happy with. While the process—boiling the candy mixture, flavoring and salting once it's cool, then hand-pulling, cutting and wrapping it—went surprisingly smoothly for the classic flavors like vanilla and peppermint, Wu says, now that she's developing her own flavors and techniques, it's requiring a bit more time and energy to get the results she wants. "I'm experimenting with fruit purees right now," she adds; "It starts messing with the texture of the candy."
It's that spirit of experimentation that sets Salty Road taffy apart. Unlike the bland, sticky-sweet boardwalk fare of your childhood memories, flavors like bergamot, salty peanut, and cranberry actually taste like what they're supposed to. Wu's own favorites are molasses, which will be coming out in the fall, and vanilla. "I stick a whole scraped vanilla bean in every batch," she explains, "so you get those tiny little beans in there, and I finish it with some organic vanilla extract. You end up with this super, almost ice-creamy vanilla hit."
These days Wu is working with Kristen Ossman of Pretty Streets Botanicals for some sophisticated herbal flavors like lemon verbena, pineapple sage, and chamomile. And she's interested in candy lovers' input as well.
Visit TheSaltyRoad.com next week to vote on future flavors or order online.