Monday, April 20, 2009

Caramel Popcorn

This recipe comes to you courtesy of my sweet friend, Kandee. It's a variation on my mom's, which I fondly refer to in this post.First, pop your popcorn. I just cover the bottom of a heavy pan with oil (vegetable is fine) and add two kernels. Then, cover the pot, turn the heat to high, and listen for a pop.

[I'll interject here to say that I once forgot about the popcorn at this stage and nearly burned the house down. Did I tell you Mr.4444 does a lot of the cooking around here? There is a reason for that.]

(I'm also interjecting to say that I'm using Calphalon cookware here, folks. We had the same set for about 10 years before we read our guarantee and had it replaced for free. Looks like we're back where we started and need another replacement. Hopefully, someone at Calphalon will read this post and have mercy on us. We do love the cookware, if not the way it looks.)

Once you hear the pop, lift the lid carefully and pour in popcorn to generously cover the bottom. Then put the lid back on quickly and wait for it to start exploding. When it starts, reduce the heat to here, and keep the pan moving until you only hear occasional pops. Pour into a large bowl. (Note: Unless you like very expensive dental work, you might want to take this time to remove any unpopped kernels that you happen to find in your popcorn. You'll probably see them later, but it's easier to get rid of them now.)

Here are the ingredients for this recipe:
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (set this aside)

Melt the butter....
Add the brown sugar...the corn syrup...And the salt...Set the baking soda to the side for now.Okay, I can't lie. There were lumps in my brown sugar, so at this point, I whipped out the handy-dandy potato masher. Voila!Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring frequently.Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. You could use a candy thermometer to turn it off at the "firm ball" stage, but I do it the old fashioned way....

Fill a small cup with COLD water. Dribble about a teaspoon's worth of caramel into the bowl. With your finger, see if you can gather it up. If you can't, then keep cooking, and try again in a few minutes. If you can, see if you can pick up the little mass and tap it on the side of the bowl. If you cook it too long, it will crack too hard (and you can still make the caramel corn, but you will be seriously risking your tooth enamel.)

When it can be tapped against the cup/bowl, remove the caramel mixture from the heat and add that baking soda you set side earlier. Mix well. (It will foam up.)Pour about half of the mixture over your popped corn, and stir, adding more after it's mixed, until it's covered fairly well. Pour into a large pan. (I did not grease this non-stick pan, but you might need to, depending on what you use.)See this little bugger? That right there is a dentist's dream. Get rid of any kernels that failed to pop. You'll get one more chance to do so, but it's best to get them when you see them right away.

Place in an oven preheated to 250 and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir. Repeat. Stir. Repeat. (45 minutes total) Dump the popcorn out onto a large piece of foil. Break it up into little pieces. This is your last chance to save on dental bills...give it another once-over (I found five more kernels this time!)You will know you have done this well when children start running into the kitchen saying, "Are you making caramel corn?! I LOVE YOU!!!" (especially if you don't have any children!)

After it's cool, put it into baggies or other containers. We each packed some up to take to school tomorrow....

....Because my kids don't want me to hand-deliver it! I wonder why????? [Insert haunting cackle here.]

P.S. Confused? Read Another Sweet Memory at Half-Past Kissin' Time.
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