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Caramel Corn: A Re-mix

Some of the best caramel corn I’ve ever tasted was in Ketchikan, Alaska this past summer by a little shop that used organic ingredients. The stuff wasn’t made with preservatives to allow it to sit in plastic on a shelf for six weeks, and we took that seriously, chowing our five dollar bag in the span of two blocks.

I don’t have the little shop’s recipe to share. But I have our own, which disappears just as quickly from our counter whenever it’s made.

Most recently, though, I cut back on the ingredients in the caramel coating by 25%. Where I’d originally used 1 cup of brown sugar, I now use 3/4 cup, etc. What I realized when I did this is that NOBODY noticed. Nobody.

Not a soul.

So…it’s this modified recipe that I want to share with you–the one with less sugar and less honey–the one that isn’t compromised in quality or taste because it has less in it–the one that nobody will notice is 25% better for them.

Here’s what we need: an air popper, popcorn, brown sugar, honey, butter, baking soda and vanilla.

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For the caramel coating we need butter. Just 6 tablespoons. Which we’ll melt in a sauce pan with…

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3/4 cup of brown sugar…

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And 3 tablespoons of honey. The honey in this recipe takes the place of corn syrup–and both sweetens the popcorn and allows it to get crunchy after it bakes.

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We want to stir our butter, brown sugar and honey occasionally, but while it’s melting…

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We’ve got our air popper plugged in with 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels…

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And we’ve set our oven to 300 degrees.

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I’ve got a special bowl for popcorn–a bowl with holes–like a sieve. And so while the popcorn blasts out of the popper..

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I’ll bang the bottom of the bowl on the counter to get rid of as many of these flaky, miserable popcorn pieces as will come out. If all you have is a regular bowl, still tap it a few times on the counter because what you’re trying to do is get the unpopped kernels and extra flaky pieces to sift themselves to the bottom of the bowl.

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Then this is important…we want to transfer our popped corn–in handfuls–from our original bowl to another large bowl…

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So that none of this ends up in our final product.

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Here’s our butter, brown sugar and honey all melted.

At this point, we want to add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and stir it nonstop…

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Until it looks like the foam of a rootbeer float. About a minute or two.

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Then we’ll remove it from the heat, add 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, stir it in…

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And pour it over our popcorn.

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We want to scrape every last ooze out with a spatula…

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And then fold the caramel coating gently under, over and around the whole bowl of popcorn. Over and over…until there’s a little something on every piece.

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It’ll look like a lot, but we want to pour the whole bowl of caramel corn onto a cookie sheet and set it on a middle or lower rack in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

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When it’s done, it’ll look like this.

And it’ll be gooey.

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Which is why we’ll push it onto the counter with a pancake flipper and let it cool for ten minutes. Or five, if it’s all we can stand.

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In those ten minutes, the caramel does something sciency and hardens.

And becomes beautiful.

And turns into the treat you can’t just sample.

Enjoy this, friends!

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Caramel Corn

Equipment: air popper, 2 large bowls


12 cups popped corn*

6 Tablespoons butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon (or less) vanilla

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 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 stirring until it ‘foams’. Add 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 8-10 minutes.

Cool caramel corn on the counter for ten minutes, allowing it to harden.  In those ten minutes, wash pan and cookie sheet in warm water, as they’ll crust to concrete shortly thereafter. Store what caramel corn isn’t devoured in an air-tight container. :)

*1/2 cup popcorn kernels makes 12 cups popped corn




2 Responses to “Caramel Corn: A Re-mix”

  1. Jan says:

    Thanks Jeannie for the recipe.

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