This post is a very long time coming. Has it really been four months since our last post? Sheesh. Well, on the same day that we made candy apples, we also made caramel corn. Yes, it has taken us that long to write this post. We are very sorry and very busy ladies.
We bought a bag of corn kernels from the farmers market and I will admit Donovan & I stared at them for a few minutes wondering if we really could just "pop" them ont he stove top. Yes, you really can and there are no special tools needed. Just a pan with a lid and oil. It is best to use a larger pot so your kernels have more space to pop about.
Coat the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil, vegetable oil or sesame oil is best. Before adding the kernels, heat the oil on medium heat until it's hot. We ended up using up half of our bag, making them in batches, pouring in enough kernels to cover the pot bottom in a single layer. Cover the pot with a lid and after a minute gently shake the pot to move the kernels around. You should start hearing some popping within a few minutes.
We used the same rule as with microwave popcorn: if the popping slows down to 7 secs between pops, take it off the heat. The fact that my pots have glass lids made this process really fun, and I really haven't gone back to microwave popcorn since we did this. It is pretty quick and you can tailor the popcorn to your taste with butter, seasonings, and melted cheese. But, we aren't making savory popcorn, no...we are making caramel popcorn. So, instead of covering this batch with buttery goodness, we poured them into a bowl to let them cool. Donovan did some quality control, picking out the un-popped kernels and burnt ones while I started on the caramel.
We weren't sure what type of caramel to use. Do we have to look for a hard caramel coating recipe specifically, or can we just use a caramel sauce? We ended up just going with a caramel sauce recipe I had in my Art of Simple Food cookbook. We figured that even if it didn't harden when it cooled, it would still be freaking yummy. Luckily, this recipe totally worked out and the caramel cooled and dried very well. Before making the caramel, line a few pans with parchment paper.
(Makes about 1 cup. From Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food.)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
Put sugar and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar starts to caramelize. Swirl the pan gently if the sugar is browning unevenly.
When the caramel is uniformly golden brown, remove from heat. Stand back from pan and add 1/4 cup of the measured cream. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon, until combined. Add the rest of the cream along with the vanilla and salt.
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After we made the caramel, we poured it while still hot over all the popcorn and fold to cover every little pop. We then spread the covered popcorn in a layer on the parchment-lined pans and let it cool. Every once in a while, we would break apart popcorn clumps and shift around the cooling caramel corn to dissuade the popcorn from sticking to each other.
These turned out really freaking delicious and was crazy easy. I wish I could tell you how long this keeps, but both Donovan and I gobbled our batches up with a week. After the popcorn has cooled, keep it in an airtight bag or container and enjoy each little morsel.