Saturday, October 30, 2010

Caramel Corn

If not for Halloween, when would we eat things that are sweet and sticky and bound to rot our teeth?
When you make this caramel corn...the answer might just change to every day.

I hope this recipe finds you in time.  It's Saturday evening, and you're probably preparing the final touches on your costume and getting ready to go to a fun Halloween party, or host one of your own.  But it's still not technically Halloween, so you have one more day to make this AMAZING caramel corn...and make everyone around you very, very happy.

Luckily, you probably have all of the ingredients for this on hand already.  It takes almost no effort to prepare, and is an instant hit.  The unique thing about this recipe is that once you dump the caramel sauce all over your popcorn, you bake it in the oven for an hour.  Orangette says "In the oven, the caramel, which had started to harden as you stirred it into the popcorn, gets a chance to soften again. You can now stir it into the popcorn more easily and evenly. The whole, gooey mess will crisp spectacularly as it cools, and the kitchen will smell outrageous."

She wasn't kidding.  I couldn't even bring myself to let it bake for the full hour.  I made it to 20 minutes, did the first stir, and let it sit in the oven another 10 minutes before I couldn't bear how amazing my kitchen smelled, and how I had to have that caramel corn now. (I ate it right then and there...without allowing it to cool as recommended...and it was still INCREDIBLE).

Caramel Corn
adapted from Orangette

Orangette's recipe notes:
  • Be sure to have a whisk and a rubber spatula close at hand. You’ll need them both on short notice.
  • Before you begin cooking the caramel, measure out the baking soda and the vanilla, and set aside in small bowls. You won’t have time to do it later.
  • Do not try to make this recipe without a candy thermometer.
    • 1 (3½-ounce) package plain (unbuttered natural flavor) microwave popcorn, or about 10 cups fresh popcorn popped by any method, lightly salted
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • ¼ cup light corn syrup
    • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • ½ tsp. baking soda
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. If using microwave popcorn, pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.
    3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

    4. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla.
    6. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can.
    7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve.
    8. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days (or thereabouts).

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