This weekend, in between marathon hours of knitting and a few holiday soirees, I whipped up a batch of homemade caramel corn. I’ve been making this recipe for years, and it never disappoints. It makes great hostess slash holiday gifts. Sunny will be doling it out to the 8 babillion teachers (think not just her classroom teachers, but her music, art, gym, library, computer teachers and her bus driver) she’s determined must receive gifts this season, and rather than bankrupt our family (or disappoint our Kindergartener), this recipe stashed inside a few mason jars with a festive red bow will do the trick.
For her classroom teachers (and Courtland’s), we actually made personalized notebooks through Minted. I’m eager to see them in person, but think the personal touch is an added bonus.
ANYWAY, this recipe. SWOON CITY!
Granted, it makes an outrageous sticky mess, as I still (after five years) have not mastered a graceful way to make caramel, but it’s worth every sugary blob scattered around the kitchen.
10 c. of fresh popcorn (I cook it in a big pot on the stove with a little bit of oil and salt)
1 c. brown sugar
¼ c. light corn syrup
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped peanuts
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Coat a large mixing bowl with butter or nonstick spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl.
Before you begin making caramel over the stove, have the baking soda and vanilla at the read (pre-measured, ready to pour). Then, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 225°F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. I find that the caramel nearly doubles in size at this step, so do use a larger saucepan than you think you need as I inevitably underestimate and then am scrambling as hot caramel bubbles all over the kitchen floor. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week.