created: 2005-01-05 15:41:46
servings: 2 or 3 depending on levels of discipline
Adapted from Fine Cooking's Holiday Baking issue. Very satisfying for salty/sweet cravings. Makes great gifts and keeps for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
1/3 C. yellow popcorn You can use white popcorn too but the yellow pops up bigger and fluffier. 1 lunch-bag sized paper bag 3/4 Tsp. baking soda 1-1/2 C. granulated sugar 2 Tsp. kosher salt 2 Tb. unsalted butter cut into small chunks 1/2 C. water 3/4 C. lightly salted peanuts or pecans (optional) Line a 10" x 15" baking sheet with parchment Pop the popcorn Pour the popcorn kernels into the paper bag Roll the top of the bag down three or four turns. Microwave on the popcorn setting or microwave on the high setting for 2 minutes and 30 seconds or until you can count to three between kernel pops. There will be a few un-popped kernels and popping time will vary depending on the brand of popcorn and your microwave. Pour popcorn into a large wide-mouthed bowl or dutch oven, something that will allow you to toss the popcorn with the caramel easily. Pick out any unpopped kernels Add nuts if using. Make the Caramel Measure the baking soda into a small dish and keep it near the caramel pot. Pour a 1/2 cup of water in a 4 quart sauce pan or other deep sided pan. The baking soda aerates the caramel and the caramel bubbles like crazy when you add it so you need a pot with deep sides. Gently sprinkle the sugar and salt over the water taking care not to get any sugar on the sides of the pan. Add the butter Cook caramel over high heat without stirring until the bubbles start to turn a light golden amber color on top and the edges start to turn a golden amber. (The caramel is darker below the bubbles so don't let it get too dark.) At that point turn the heat off and immediately add the baking soda and stir. Note: This whole proces takes about 8 - 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot when the caramel is cooking and keep checking it for color every few minutes. It can overcook in a flash. . The caramel will bubble up vigorously when you add the soda. Stir caramel briskly with a heat-proof spatula for a few seconds to evenly distribute the soda/spice mixture and immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn and nuts if using Don't bother scraping the pot. Quickly toss the popcorn, nut and caramel mixture with two heat-proof spatulas until popcorn and nuts are well coated. Spread popcorn in a flat layer on the parchment lined baking sheet and let it cool for a half hour. Break apart when cool. Variations 1. Lemon/Star Anise Caramel Popcorn 1 Tsp. finely grated lemon zest along with one whole star anise; toasted and finely ground in a spice grinder. Add to caramel along with the baking soda. 2. Ginger/Cinnamon Caramel Popcorn 1/2 Tsp. ground ginger 1/4 Tsp. ground cinnamon 1//4 Tsp. freshly ground black pepper Add to caramel along with the baking soda. 3. Spicy Add 1/4 Tsp. of Cayenne (or to taste) to baking soda.