Wednesday, December 16, 2009
When I was a kid, caramel corn didn't just make an appearance at the holidays. Yes, year after year it was bagged up and sent out with the rest of our holiday treats, but it wasn't a recipe that was just pulled out of the box in the month of December. I always knew that there was about to be "an occasion" when I saw my mom popping enough popcorn to supply a matinee. My mom made this caramel corn when we were going on a road trip, going camping, and for fair week too (we spent a good deal of time in the barns with our livestock at the county fair, hence the need for snacks at the ready to keep us from spending $4 for an elephant ear every time we got hungry.) It truly is addictive. So much so that a friend yelled at me from across my kitchen last weekend, "Get this stuff away from me!" There's something so much better about this caramel corn than the varieties I have tried from the store or carnival stands. Maybe I'm just biased. Guess you'll just have to try this out for yourself.
Here's whatcha do...
Combine brown sugar, light corn syrup, butter, and salt in a saucepan.
Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Many caramel corn recipes recommend keeping the caramel at a certain temperature, measured on a candy thermometer. Once mine boils, I just turn down the heat enough so that I keep it boiling and then I stir it while it boils for 5 minutes.
Now here's the magic step. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
A reaction occurs causing the caramel to foam and grow. My 5 year old daughter was both amazed and frightened. You see, she was stirring at this point and she was convinced that it was going to spill over the top. It didn't. I knew that it wouldn't. I've made caramel in this sauce pan before. If you're trying this out for the first time, I do suggest that you use a saucepan with enough room for the caramel to expand after the addition of the baking soda. After the caramel foams up, I add in a teaspoon of vanilla too.
So now, it's time to pour the caramel over the popcorn. Pictured below are 3 regular-sized bags worth of plain (not butter flavored) air-popped popcorn, spread out over two large baking sheets. A large roasting pan would work well for this too. Unfortunately, I don't have one. Bummer.
Give the popcorn a good stir to evenly distribute the caramel, but don't stress if it's not perfect. We're going to stir this 3 times during the baking time...every 15 minutes for an hour! That caramel will coat the popcorn eventually, I promise. Now you're all ready to bake.
When you've finished with an hour of baking and stirring, put down some waxed paper on your countertop and spread the caramel corn out to cool. Go ahead and taste it...you know you want to! Just be careful, it's HOT!
I put a big ol' bowl of this out at my daughter's cookie decorating party, then bagged the rest. I added a couple of bags to our teacher gift and delivered the rest to my neighbors with tins of fudge and gingerbread cookies.
3 bags of plain air-popped popcorn
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans. You may use roasting pans, jelly roll pans, or disposable roasting pans. Set aside.
2.Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend. Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.
3.Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will be light and foamy. Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat. Don't worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated.
4.Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes. Line the counter top with waxed paper. Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper. Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight containers or resealable bags.
Speaking of holiday gifts and goodies, just look at this beautiful (and delicious) box of Christmas cookies that my neighbor delivered to our door tonight.
But the cookies weren't all...there was also a good-sized bag of homemade Chex mix. YUM!
Man, I just love this time of year!