Kernel popcorn stand was a big Christmas treat. My sister and I would walk past the stands in the packed Christmas malls and the smell of buttery goodness would waft through the halls. The brightly packaged tins of crazy flavours of popcorn made a yearly appearance at our house.
Next to dill pickle (YUCK!) my sisters favourite is caramel corn. During the year when we couldn’t get into the big city to the kernels stands – Crunch & Munch circus boxes would show up – you know the kind with pecans? My sister would literally hide them and eat them all. Up until this year I have never made caramel corn. I always bought it. Pandemics force you to breech new territory.
I Found a simple recipe that did not require temperatures or crazy ingredients. Gimmie some Oven. That said the second time making it and a bit more research – I did make tweaks for the very best results.
First tip. Do not trust times with caramel. Every recipe will tell you a different thing. Instead Error on side of caution and always do less time then suggested. Every oven is differs even at low heat. Hard for beginners I know. This recipe should be a pourable consistency that is like runny butterscotch pudding. If your mixture cooks too long and gets sticky or thick simply add a few tbs of water to thin it back out. If it burns- throw it out and start over.
Second Tip – LOW and SLOW is KEY not to burn anything. The orig recipe called for 300 degree oven with stirring often – but I find even lower works better at 250. Your mixture will become slightly runny again with heat and as you stir you coat more of the popcorn.
Third Tip– XL Mushroom Popcorn- Avail here – Certianly not nessicary but really helpful – nope not a vegetable but a type of popcorn. Upon further research and some comments on other blogs stating the caramel shrunk or broke the popcorn- I found out that nice round commercial caramel corn is made using a type of popcorn called mushroom popcorn – who knew? – it has more surface area, less Unpopped kernels and doesn’t shrink when coated.
- Bake only a single layer allow to cool completely before storing in ziploc or air tight container.
- Helpful to have lots of cookie sheets
- Use a cookie cooling rack to sift out any unpopped kernels
- Use parchment on cookie sheets this will limit what you have to wash. Washing up caramel pot. I have heard of people throwing out pots because of sugar that wont come off. SERIOUSLY DO NOT DO THAT! PLEASE! Unless you really are trying to get a new set of pans – It can be coated onto the pan – But sugar dissolves easily- simply pour boiling water in it and allow to sit.
Easy Salted Caramel Corn
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
- 1/2 cup clear corn syrup
- 3 tsp. Course Sea salt ground – (Measured before grinding)
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 12 cups popped popcorn (about 1 cup kernels before popped, preferably warm from being freshly popped)
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Lay popped popcorn in single layer on large length of parchment on table or counter.
- Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup, stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer undisturbed for 5 minutes. Stir, then continue to cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until the mixture a golden or toffee color. Mixture should be pourable like runny butterscotch pudding – if too thick simply add a few tbs of water to think it out to right consistency.
- Turn off the heat and slowly whisk in salt, baking soda and vanilla, being very careful as the mixture will bubble. Pour evenly over your popcorn- gently toss and coat. transfer coated popcorn to prepared sheets. Discard length of parchment now coated with caramel.
- Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet or pan in an even layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring to toss every 5 minutes, until the caramel corn has turned an amber color. Sugar can burn so watch carefully. Remove the caramel corn from the oven and let cool. Once it reaches room temperature, use your hands or a spoon to break up the caramel corn, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.
** for lighter looking caramel use half white sugar half light brown sugar