Saturday, October 31, 2009

Crispy Caramel Corn

I love caramel corn. Actually, I love almost anything caramel, that creamy, sweet, buttery, sticky, almost burnt sugar flavour is one of my favourites, hands down. It is right up there with really good chocolate, on the very top of my sweets list. (It is a really big list!) But, again, I digress! Back to the caramel corn.  One would think, given my love for all things caramel that I would have attempted to make this before now.  I have no idea why I haven’t! So, for Halloween this year, I decided to give it a go.  This is not a recipe that is done quickly; though it is not difficult, it is a bit time consuming, so if you are going to make it, allow for a few hours in the kitchen.  The last hour just requires stirring, so you can turn your attention elsewhere if you have a good timer to call you back to the oven.  The cooling process didn’t take as long as I thought it might, my only issue was keeping all the not-so-little fingers out of it before I packaged it up to go into my nieces and nephews treat bags!  I found a recipe on that gave very good reviews, ( and used this for the basis of my attempt. My major tweak was switching the butter for the margarine called for, because butter is always better, right? It seems like a lot of butter, but hey, it is caramel corn, it is meant to be decadent!  I also took out the peanuts, so feel free to add a few cups of nuts of your choice to the popcorn prior to adding the caramel.
 The resulting caramel corn that I did manage to save from the vultures that are my boys, was very tasty.  Addictively tasty.  Now I am thinking about how to make maybe a chipotle maple version, sweet and salty with heat…now that sounds delicious!

Crispy Caramel Corn

7 quarts plain popped popcorn (see my method for popping popcorn at the bottom of this post)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt (omits if using salted butter, unless you are like me and like the salty sweet combination)
1 cup Butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spread the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans, removing any unpopped kernels that you can. I used my large jelly roll type pans, but you can use roasting pans, disposable roasting pans, anything large and with a bit of a side. Set aside.
 Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt (if using) in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend.

Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

 (Here is where my laptop comes in really handy. I have some counter space on the right hand side of my stove, and generally while I am cooking, this is where my laptop sits.   When I need to spend any amount of time stirring something, to save boredom, I turn to my favourite blogs, and read while I stir. The time goes much faster, when you occupy yourself with delicious reading!)

Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.

This makes the mixture foam up a bit, and it becomes light and airy. Spoon the caramel mixture quickly over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat as best as you can. This was a wee bit messy, don’t worry about getting every kernel in contact with the caramel, it will be mixed a few times while it bakes, and this distributes it further.

Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven. Every 15 minutes, take the pans out and stir the popcorn around to further distribute the caramel.  
While it is in the oven, you will need to find a large area to cool the caramel corn when it is finished in the oven.  I cleared off a large section of my island, and lined it with wax paper. Dump the finished corn out and separate the pieces. Make sure to cool completely before putting into airtight containers or baggies, or it won’t stay crispy.

Yield: A lot! Unless you have vultures like mine, then it doesn’t make enough!
Popping Popcorn, the old fashioned way!

In a large pot with a lid, (mine is about 6 quarts or so) place about 2 tbsp of some kind of oil, my favourite is coconut oil, but you can also what you like.  Add 1 cup of popcorn kernels and place pot on burner.

Turn burner on medium high, and place lid on pot but do not seal, have it angled away from you to allow steam to escape.  

Hold a tea towel around the front edge of pot to prevent being splashed by hot oil, steam or kernels.  Shake pot gently to keep kernels moving.  It won’t take long, so do not leave unattended!  Remove from heat when the rapid popping slows down considerably, about 3 to 5 seconds between pops. Immediately remove from heat and remove lid.

Voila! Beautiful popcorn, ready for topping!

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