I have always been a sucker for Cracker Jacks! Here, the classic snack is made with the best ingredients: organic butter and cream; fleur de sel. The salty, sweet, crunchiness is addictively good. (The fool-proof technique for making caramel sauce is adapted from The Joy of Cooking.) Toss a bunch of this homemade caramel corn into a beautiful jar and it makes a tasty gift to bring to your friend's open house. - yummy supper —yummy supper
Test Kitchen Notes
I've been looking for a go-to caramel corn recipe, and I'm glad I gave this one a try. I like that yummy supper has you pop the corn separately, then make the caramel sauce and drizzle it over the popped corn; the technique avoids the problem of popping the corn before the sugar burns, which often happens to me when I made caramel corn. Yummy supper instructs you to heat the sugar until it starts to smoke, which had me hesitate, since I wanted to avoid having a burnt sugar fiasco. I brought my sugar to 280°F, at which point it was plenty bubbly but not smoking. If I made this again, I'd push 285°F; at 280, the sauce lacks that deep, caramel flavor. Yummy supper also tells you to drizzle the sauce over the corn on the baking sheet, then add peanuts, and then toss, which I found a bit unwieldy. I simply mixed popcorn, peanuts, and caramel sauce in a very large bowl, then distributed on the baking sheet, which worked great. Lastly, word on doneness: I wasn't quite sure how I'd know the popcorn was done, so at 45 minutes, I took the pan out of the oven to test. The caramel will still look runny in places, but I put a few pieces on a plate I had chilled in the freezer, and they firmed right up. Indeed, the rest of the caramel firmed as it cooled. In all, a great recipe! —Rivka
popcorn kernels (approximately 5 quarts popped corn)
unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
First pop your popcorn using whatever technique suits you. (I use a little canola oil and one cup of corn kernels in an old-fashioned hand-crank popper.) Set aside popped corn.
Go ahead and make your caramel sauce:
Place brown sugar in a small heavy sauce pan. Pour water evenly over the top. Turn stove top to medium-high heat. Hold sauce pan by the handle and swirl occasionally until sugar has dissolved. (Avoid letting sugar burn until completely dissolved.)
Cover pan, turn heat to high, and boil for 2 minutes.
Remove lid and continue to boil until syrup turns brown around the edges of the pan. Again grab the handle and swirl syrup occasionally until it thickens and begins to smoke. The sauce should reach about 275 to 300 degrees before you remove it from the heat. (Check the temp with a candy thermometer.)
Remove pan from heat. Add butter bits. Gently whisk, until all butter is mixed in.
Stir in cream. (If sauce become lumpy, set pan over low heat and stir until smooth then turn off heat again.)
Stir in vanilla and salt and your caramel is done.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
The caramel corn should be baked in two batches: First, line a large cookie sheet with parchment. Next, spread about 1/2 of the popcorn on the parchment. Then drizzle about 1/2 of the caramel over the top of the popcorn. Add 3/4 cup peanuts. Toss until ingredient are integrated.
Place cookie sheet in the oven. Stir every 20 minutes or so. Note: don't use your fingers to toss corn. Hot caramel sticks to your fingers and really burns!
The caramel corn should be done in 45 minutes to an hour. Remove cookie sheet from oven, let the caramel corn cool. Make your second batch. Eat. Enjoy!