Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sweet & Salty Caramel Corn

My brother and sister-in-law had there "wedding" last weekend. Really it was a vow exchange. There is this goofy thing you can do in Colorado, where only one person needs to be present. Proxy wedding for the win! Lucky for them, the family knows people in Colorado. That person being my dads BFF and grooms man from back in the day. So needless to say they wanted to exchange their vows and throw a big old party, two years into marriage.

I had the great pleasure of cooking the rehearsal dinner, which was more like a cocktail part-ay, for 30 some people. There has never been a meal where I have put so much thought or planning into. Despite all the thought and planning, it wasn't until the week before the rehearsal that panic struck. Sitting in my apartment, surrounded by cookies (so many cookies), that I started to think about how much food I was making.

The fact that I chose to make deviled eggs and then the realization that I'd be hard boiling, peeling and filling a couple dozen eggs, caused a serious moment of panic.Then that I would be making 60 mini empanadas, blue cheese cookies, red velvet cake balls, whiskey weiners, prosciutto wrapped pear, endives with blue cheese and walnuts, and cheese board. Yup, my panic snow balled so far I worried about constructing a cheese board.

My brother's response to the panic was order pizza instead then, which was not received well by me. The look on my face was something like "I will kill you if you say that again". He said it many more times, which makes him lucky he lived to see the rehearsal dinner. Luckily I'm confident in my food and great at talking myself down.

Plus 2/3 of the desserts were complete close to a week in advance. The millions of compost cookies that sparked the panic snow-ball were in the freezer and caramel corn is my jam. I've spent a good amount of time finding the perfect recipe.

The process is simple, especially if you excel at popping pop corn (I still usually burn the first batch). The ingredient list is small. There is no thermometer involved, just time and color judgement. You're looking for a caramel corn color essentially. Which, the above doesn't quite to justice to the color you're looking for.

A lot of recipes have you pour the caramel over the pop corn and bake it, for even caramel distribution. That seems like a waste of time to me, when I can just stir the hell out of it and get the same results. Wear a oven mitt. Be careful. I do more of a folding approach than stirring. Cutting down the middle.

When there are no more caramel clumps, distribute it between two baking sheets. Spread it out into one even layer and break up any large bits. Let it cool. It shouldn't take terribly long to reach a edible temperature. Its hard to resist the sweet and salty goodness.

The next party you have make this and be confident that if nothing else turns out, this will, and people will not complain about eating only this. If you don't have a party just bring it to the next one. It makes a good drinking snack too, home and bar snack approved.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup, plus 1/8 cup unpopped popcorn kernels

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

  1. Heat oil with 3 popcorn kernels, in a large pot over medium heat. When kernels pop, add remaining 1/2 cup of kernels. Cook, covered, shaking pan occasionally, until popping stops, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let stand, covered, 1 minute. Transfer popcorn to a clean bowl, checking for any burnt or unpopped kernels and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan heat sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is golden brown (don't stir the mixture, only swirl the saucepan). Add the salt to the mixture (still not stirring, give the pan a good shake instead).
  3. Add the popcorn to the saucepan, stirring until evenly coated. Transfer to two baking sheets, spreading it out and breaking up any large chunks. 


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