fall is here! cavities await!
Sad news everyone: summer is over and as of Saturday fall has officially begun. I am at peace with this bittersweet transition as along with tomatoes, swimming, and blueberries, I also adore crisp mornings, leaves changing, and, most importantly, all the food and flavors that compliment the fall season. Of course there are the obvious perks like Halloween candy and Thanksgiving dinner, as well as tasty beverages like pumpkin beer and hot apple cider. And, there are also more humble, Pilgrim-approved things to be enjoyed like pears, cranberries, butternut squash, chanterelle mushrooms, and quince. However, I think my latest autumnal obsession is DIY caramel corn.
yields one big ol’ bowl of caramel corn
With only a few ingredients, this recipe is very simple and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t like handfuls of sweet, buttery, crunchy, nutty caramel corn?! But please note, cooking the caramel can be tricky if you haven’t ever done it before. It can burn you very badly if you are not careful so maybe read up on it first to make sure you feel comfortable giving it a shot in this recipe. I promise you can do it though because you are awesome, you just need to be careful. Also, if you do burn yourself a little bit, know that at least you will have tasty nuggets of caramel corn to eat while you nurse your wound!
I N G R E D I E N T S
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup toasted and salted mixed nuts, like peanuts and almonds (optional)
1/2 cup or one stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) non-gmo corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
D I R E C T I O N S
Add the vegetable oil to a large stock pot or Dutch oven that has a lid and place it over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and cover the pot with the lid.
Keeping the pot over the heat, swirl and shake it with the lid on. Continue shaking and swirling the pot and as soon as you begin to hear the kernels popping, let a bit of the steam escape by just barely sliding the lid off the pot only about 1/4 inch (otherwise you’re bound to get some hot popcorn bullets to the face). Continue shaking and swirling, letting steam escape periodically until you don’t hear any more popcorn popping. Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of salt, and transfer popcorn to a cookie sheet lined with buttered parchment or a silpat.
If you are making nutty caramel corn, sprinkle the nuts on the sheet pan with the popcorn and set aside.
To make the caramel, begin by making sure you have all your ingredients out, measured, and ready to go. Add the butter to a medium saucepan.
Add both the sugars and corn syrup to the butter.
Without stirring too much, bring the mixture to a boil.
Cook the caramel until it reaches 298°F to 310°F on a candy thermometer or passes the hard crack test. To test it, dip a spoon in the hot caramel and drop a few drops into a cup of cold water. After a few seconds, remove the caramel from the cup. If it feels brittle and hard, it is done cooking. If it is still malleable, stretchy, or chewy, it must continue cooking a bit longer to evaporate more liquid. When the caramel is ready, swiftly and carefully remove it from the heat and whisk in the baking soda and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Still working quite quickly, but very carefully, pour all of the caramel over the popcorn. Using a heat-proof rubber spatula, toss the popcorn with the caramel to coat evenly. Be careful here because even though the caramel is no longer on the heat it will still be very, very hot.
Set the caramel corn aside to cool completely before breaking it up and serving. That is, if your pals can keep from snacking it all away straight off the baking sheet…