Yesterday my friend Cate Sturgess had a really fun Golden Globes party at her apartment – I took advantage of the opportunity to practice my popcorn making skills! I do make basic air popped popcorn fairly frequently, experimenting with caramel corn is the new hobby.
Caramel corn really isn’t that hard to make, for me the intimating part is making the caramel without second guessing myself (I don’t have a candy thermometer so I just eye it, not shockingly)
20 cups air popped popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract – This is your opportunity to go crazy, replace vanilla with 3 ozs bourbon – if you want to go really crazy 20 cups of popcorn can handle about a pound of chopped bacon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Boil without stirring for 4 minutes – test by dipping in a spoon and the caramel should coat the back of the spoon and basically look like caramel!
Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla – this is where I freak out, the soda causes the caramel to foam up and turn a much lighter color brown, this is ok – just go with it
Pour over popcorn, tossing and mixing to coat.
Transfer to baking dishes (if needed) and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for 1 hour. Remove from oven, break into pieces and let cool completely – I spread it all out on wax paper on the dining table
(recipe adapted from All Recipes)
For all of us living in small apartments, the biggest challenge in making a recipe like this can be having the appropriate vessel. I make this whole recipe in my oversized roasting pan. As I pop the popcorn it goes right in the pan, the caramel gets poured on top, mixed in and baked all in one. Before I owned this amazing pan (it was a Christmas gift – thanks Mom!) I used two cookie sheets (well coated with cooking spray) for baking and several large mixing bowls for mixing the caramel into the popcorn. It is important to mix the caramel into the popcorn quickly, so if you’re worried about juggling, making the caramel in two batches can be a good idea.
For Cate’s I also made a second kind of popcorn, the much less indulgent Lemon Dill Popcorn:
10 cups air popped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons chopped lemon peel
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt to taste
Place popcorn in 1 gallon sized Ziplock bag
Melt butter, mix in lemon zest, dill and salt
Pour flavored butter over popcorn in Ziplock, seal and shake until evenly covered
This basic recipe is how I make the majority of my popcorn. My simple favorite is about 3-4 cups popcorn tossed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and less than a teaspoon of honey – perfect sweet and savory snack! While simple can be tasty, popcorn is a great opportunity to experiment – italian spices with grated Parmesan, even curry and cumin for some serious flare – go crazy!
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