I don’t know what it is about caramel corn that makes me forget that there’s such thing as a portion. Or that I can save some for later.
I love this stuff. By the handful.
And because it’s simple and can be made from set-up to clean-up in thirty minutes–even with two kids ‘helping’–I tend to favor making it. At least lately.
So here’s the stuff we need: popcorn, butter, brown sugar, honey, baking soda, and vanilla.
And here are the things that make the process easier: an air popper, a couple of big bowls and a spatula.
Already I’ve got my air popper filled to the line inside with popcorn. If I wanted to measure it out, it’d be a 1/2 cup of kernels.
And I’ve got a big bowl set to catch the stuff when it flies out of the machine.
Not that it matters even a tiny bit–unless preference counts–but I always catch the corn in this yellow sieve-like bowl. The little, yellow, flaky things that fall off the popcorn and get stuck in my gums or onto my tonsils just fall onto the counter. I like that.
So even before the kernels start bouncing around, I set the oven to 300 degrees. Or 310 degrees. Just nothing higher.
Then while the popcorn is bursting into the bowl…
I’ve got the butter, brown sugar and honey melting on the stove with an over-zealous stirer.
Here are those flaky popcorn shell pieces. Ech.
Now to spare everyone’s teeth–or just my own–from needing emergency dental work, we transfer the popcorn from one big bowl to the next.
That way when we get to the bottom of the first bowl, we can toss what we don’t need–which is usually a few half-popped pieces of corn and a bunch of dead kernels. Nothing anyone wants in his caramel corn.
When the butter, brown sugar and honey have melted and begun to boil along the edges, I turn the burner off and add a tiny bit of baking soda and a speck of vanilla. I end up with a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and as much or less of vanilla.
Then, when the oven is ready, I pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn and start folding the two over and over each other with my spatula.
No likey dry popcorn.
Eventually-despite the unhelpfulness of this picture–the popcorn oozes with brown sugar and butter.
About this time I thank myself. It just seems right.
And then I stuff the whole bowl full onto a single baking sheet and slide it into the oven on one of the lower racks for ten minutes.
I don’t bother it. Or babysit it. Or poke it. Or worry that’s burning.
Because it’s just fine.
And now when I pull it from the oven, the stuff still looks and feels gooey. Which it should–for just a bit.
I push it off the pan with a metal spatula right onto a clean counter and wait another ten minutes for it to harden and get a crunchy coat.
At this time I also smack away small hands that think I’m not looking.
Now the humidity does strange stuff to caramel corn, like wilts it. So after it cools and hardens, I put it in an air tight container. If it makes it that far.
What I love about this recipe is that it works for us. Where another recipe may call for corn syrup, we use honey. And I guess that just makes me happy.
If you get a chance to make caramel corn, may you enjoy it as much as we do!
Here’s the recipe:
12 cups popped corn*
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
5 Tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (or less) vanilla
Directions: Preheat oven to 310 degrees. Pop corn in air popper while simultaneously melting butter, brown sugar and honey in a small pan. Transfer popped corn by handfuls into another large bowl, being careful to scoop only popcorn and not dead kernels.
When oven is heated and sugar mixture is melted and boiling along the edges, remove sugar mixture from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Stir to combine.
Pour sugar mixture over popped corn, folding and stirring with a spatula until corn is completely coated. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake on a lower rack of the oven for ten minutes.
Cool caramel corn on the counter for ten minutes, allowing it to harden. Store what isn’t devoured in an air-tight container. 🙂
*1/2 cup popcorn kernels makes 12 cups popped corn