Caramel corn. My first caramel. One of the first recipes I did by myself. You know that cookbook I'm so gleefully holding in the About Ellen page? My first caramel corn recipe was in there.
All through my younger youth days I did it exactly as the instructions said, except for one time when I added a bit too much salt...and then came a time where I decided that it wasn't caramel-y enough. Something was lacking. I doubled the caramel portion of the recipe for a single pan of popcorn, and it was so ooey gooey and wonderful. But it still wasn't quite right, there had to be something more. This was something I thought about as I got older, it just seemed way too basic for my maturing taste.
I peruse way too many food blogs for my own good, but I do have my top 4 favorites. At the top of those reigns one of the first food blogs I ever stumbled upon, Annie's Eats. This lady inspires me to no end, and I greatly admire her. She's always reliable and has a never-ending stream of awesome recipes that she's either thought of herself, modified to make better, or left well enough alone because it was already perfection. She shares it all, and juggles the life of doctor, wife, and mother of two little ones. She's also completely self-taught, both in photography and cooking/baking. She's pretty much the next (better) Martha Stewart, and I hope someday that I'm half as accomplished as she is.
That being said, I had no trouble choosing her recipe for caramel corn when I wanted something new. And let me tell you, it's everything I was hoping for. This past week seems like it's just been one thing after another, there a few recipes that didn't make it to this blog. May they rest in peace.
I was frustrated to no end, and I found myself needing to turn back to the basics, to remember just how far I've come since my early caramel corn and chocolate chip cookie days. It was refreshing, I knew what I was doing and I was comfortable. Making something I could do in my sleep brought a little confidence back to my weary baking soul. And if caramel corn just happens to be the byproduct of that, well, no complaints there.
Happy Valentine's :)
Yield: about 24 cups, recipe can be halved (but why?)
- 1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. baking soda
Pop popcorn using your preferred method. Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl (or two large bowls). Make sure there is enough room in your bowl(s) for tossing the popcorn. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 250° F. Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, mix in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring (Some recipes say to stir constantly, others say not to stir at all. Caramel coating is smoother if you don’t stir. Don't worry, if it's a 2-quart pan it won't go over.). Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and baking soda. The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowl(s) and toss to coat thoroughly. (Salad spoons are very useful for this step.)
Spread the popcorn evenly onto the two lined baking sheets. (It is okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout. It will melt and become better spread out while baking.) Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn. If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.
Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging.
Sources: found on Annie's Eats, who adapted it from Christie's Corner