Happy Christmas Eve! I know many of you are probably busy with last minute preparations for the holiday so we’ll keep things brief today. Up until now, I have avoided sharing too many of the goodies I’m gifting to others this year on the blog. Some of our family members are readers and I wanted to keep some things as surprises. Today though I’m assuming they’re all too busy to be keeping tabs over here and besides, I couldn’t wait any longer to share this caramel corn with you. I love snacking on popcorn, and though I usually prefer it with just a little salt, this variation is a new favorite!
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about this recipe when I first saw it. The instructions for making the caramel provided only times, no temperatures or visual cues, which made me wonder how well it would work. I forged ahead though, and am glad to say it turned out perfectly! This recipe is nearly foolproof. It yields quite a bit of popcorn – I didn’t measure, but I filled 9 of the bags below and that was after I snacked on a bunch of it :) Oh, and I mention this below but I think it bears repeating – when tossing the popcorn with the caramel, don’t be tempted to use your hands, even if you think it’ll make it easier (not that I possibly would have tried that myself…). That caramel is hot stuff, which yes, I realize should be obvious…
Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!
1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pop popcorn using your preferred method. I made mine on the stove top, and though I generally just use a 3 qt saucepan, for this much popcorn I erred on the side of caution and used a stockpot, which was plenty big enough. I place a few tablespoons of canola oil in the pot along with 3 kernels of popcorn then cover the pot and set it over medium to medium-high heat. When those first 3 kernels pop, I add the remaining kernels and pop them, shaking the pot occasionally to prevent burning. When the noise of the kernels popping is nearly stopped, I remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for a minute.
Transfer the popcorn to several heatproof large bowls. You want to leave yourself plenty of room to toss the popcorn with the caramel, so don’t fill the bowls to the top.
Preheat oven to 250 F. Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a 3-quart saucepan set over medium heat. When the butter is completely 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 full boil, let it continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowls and toss to coat thoroughly. I used two rubber spatulas to toss, which worked pretty well. This may be obvious, but the caramel will be VERY hot, don’t attempt to touch it with your hands at this point.
Spread the popcorn evenly onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. It is okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout. It will melt and become better spread out while baking. Bake for 40 minutes, removing from the oven to stir every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn. If it is not completely crispy, bake for 10 minutes more.
Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and let the popcorn cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging.