Tastes Like Childhood ~ Classic Caramel Corn Recipe


When I went back to teaching full-time as a Culinary Arts instructor, blogging moved to the back burner.  But the world sure has shaken up the status quo these past few weeks.  I'm thankful that I am still able to teach from home, and like everyone, am adjusting to this strange new world, sequestered away with my husband and six not-so-little monkeys.

For my own sanity, and hopefully as a way of providing some home-cookery-catharsis to others, it seems like a good time to start sharing some of the recipes I've developed and fine-tuned over the years for my students.  

Like one of my all-time favorite sources for recipes, America's Test Kitchen, my high school classroom is a bit of an America's Teenage Test Kitchen -- my recipes go through rigorous testing and refinement, ultimately passing the can-do test for 100 or more teenagers at all different academic levels, culinary experience levels, and abilities.

With most people stuck at home and resources limited, I decided to have my first recipe share be my caramel corn recipe.  It's simple, delicious, and uses only a few ingredients.  It's perfect for snacking and satiating a sweet-tooth.  Enjoy!

Caramel Corn

Preheat oven to 300 F 
Completely line a baking sheet with foil, then spray with nonstick spray

10 cups popped popcorn (stovetop recipe below)
1 cup caramel (recipe for homemade is below)
2 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon baking soda with no lumps

Step 1:  In a small saucepan, add water and caramel.  Cook, whisking constantly over medium-low heat until bubbling.

Step 2:  Remove from heat.  Whisk in baking soda.  Caramel will bubble and become lighter in color.  Immediately pour caramel evenly over the popcorn.

Step 3: Use a rubber scraper sprayed with nonstick spray to fold to coat the popcorn quickly and carefully (caramel is hot).

Step 4:  Place pan in center rack of oven for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Stir and fold with rubber scraper to distribute caramel.

Step 5:  Cook for an additional 8 minutes.  

Step 7:  Remove from oven and immediately scrape up caramel that has stuck to the bottom of pan.  Fold over onto popcorn.  

Transfer popcorn to another lightly sprayed pan or piece of parchment paper. 
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When warm to the touch, break up caramel corn with your fingers.  Enjoy.

Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

For Homemade Caramel

1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (half of a 14 oz. can)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spray a 2-cup glass measuring cup and set aside.

Step 1: Wet your medium saucepan (the inside), then dump out water.  Do not dry.

Step 2: In the prepared saucepan, add your butter pieces.  Melt over medium heat.

Step 3:  Remove from heat.  Into the melted butter whisk in sugars, corn syrup and condensed milk (NOT VANILLA) till smooth.   Return to burner at half power.

Step 4:  Attach a candy thermometer. Cook on half power (medium) until temperature reaches 240, whisking gently, but constantly and being sure to scrape the bottom. 

Step 5:  Once thermometer reads 240, remove whisk carefully.  Continue stirring with a rubber scraper, taking special care to constantly scrape the bottom, until thermometer reads 250.

During this time, pop your popcorn.  Caramel takes the longest between the 240 and 250 mark.

Step 6:  Remove pan from heat as soon as temp reaches 250.  Stir in vanilla.  

Step 7:  Pour Caramel into the prepared, sprayed 2-cup glass measuring cup.   You'll use 1 to 1 1/4 cups of the caramel for the Caramel Corn recipe.

Perfect Stovetop Popcorn

3 tablespoons coconut oil or other high smoke-point oil 
1/2 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
One 3-quart heavy-bottomed pot with lid

Step 1:  In a large pot with a heavy bottom, heat the oil over medium heat.  

Step 2:  Put 3 kernels into the oil. Wait for the popcorn kernels to pop.

Step 3:  When the kernels pop, remove them with tongs; add the rest of the popcorn in an even layer.

Step 4:  Cover the pot all the way, remove from heat and count 30 seconds.

Step 5:  Return the pan to the heat with lid just slightly offset to allow a little steam to escape. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. 

Step 6:  Once the popping sounds like it’s reached a peak,  gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner for a few seconds.

Step 7:  Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into your serving bowl, or if making Caramel Corn, directly on to your foil-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray.

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