Stories and photos by Lindsay Kucera/The AS Review
Killer Caramel Popcorn
This is your only warning: Don’t make this by yourself! If you do, you will eat all of it yourself. Trust me. This caramel corn is absolutely addictive.
I was introduced to this delicious confection last year, when my roommate brought home a few coffee tins of her grandmother’s caramel corn from Christmas break. There was a giant tin, supposedly for her, and a smallish tin for her roommates.
Now, it’s a really sweet gesture to bring us a tin at all, but my roommate made one mistake: she left me alone with the giant tin. Obviously, I ate all of it. All of it! It put me in a horrible sugar coma, and I don’t regret it for a second.
Fast-forward another year, as I’m planning this week’s recipe. Another of my lovely roommates suggests her mother’s apparently killer caramel corn recipe, at which point my other roommate offers up her grandmother’s super secret recipe, and it turns out to be the same one. So, I owe a great debt of thanks to them both, because now I’m making this caramel popcorn a tradition.
Serves: Well, that depends on who’s eating it. (If it’s me, one.)
2/3-cup un-popped popcorn
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter/ margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1/2-cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
Special tools: A large, shallow, oven-safe pan & a candy thermometer
In a large pan (with a lid) pop the popcorn with three to six tablespoons of cooking oil, or whatever it takes to coat the bottom of the pan. Cover the kernels with the lid and keep on medium-high heat until the popcorn is popped.
Preheat the oven to a low heat of 250 F. Put the popcorn in the shallow, oven-safe pan and keep warm in the oven until you are done with the caramel sauce. Apparently, if you do not do this, it will not taste as good as Grandma Eloise’s recipe, and I am too much in love with the stuff to mess with a good thing.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter (or margarine!), sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium heat until it’s all melted and delicious-looking. Bring the mixture to a low boil, and keep until the whole mix reaches about 248 F. (Note when using a candy thermometer: try to keep the thermometer from touching the bottom of the pan, it will give you an inaccurate reading.)
Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the baking soda. This will make the sauce a bit frothy,
but it adds air to make it lighter, which makes it even better.
Now, the tricky part: I have found through experience that it is better to add the caramel to the popcorn with a friend’s help. One of you can stir the popcorn in a large bowl while the other pours on the caramel. Try to spread the sauce as evenly as possible. Put the popcorn back in the shallow pan and put it back in the oven for 45 minutes, taking the popcorn out every 15 minutes to stir it and keep it from sticking.
After the 45 minutes are up, immediately remove the popcorn from the pan and put in preferably air-tight containers. Break up the popcorn while it is still warm so that it doesn’t cool into a huge popcorn-block.
Now, share (or don’t!) and enjoy!