Category Archives: Caramel Corn

How to Make Caramel Corn

The more you eat, the more you want. It’s been the Cracker Jack slogan since 1895 and it’s still true. There’s a little bit of candy-making process to this never-fail treat, but it’s painless if you can lay your hands on a thermometer. First, we make the popcorn. Throw a few kernels in a 3-4 quart saucepan with a couple tablespoons of oil and put the pan over medium-high heat.

When you have a couple of pops, you know you’re ready.

Add the rest of the corn.

Cover the pan and leave it slightly off-kilter to allow steam to escape. Shake it back and forth over the burner. What does that do? It helps un-popped kernels to settle to the bottom where it’s hotter. Oh, and yes, in case you were wondering, this wooden pastry board doubles as a cooktop. Very hush-hush technology, I hope to take it to market soon, make a billion dollars, and kiss this cyber-popsicle stand goodbye forever!

But where was I? Oh yes: pop the corn.

Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray…

…then pour the popcorn and the peanuts in. Give it a stir. The peanuts will all settle to the bottom. Don’t worry about it. Put the bowl in a very low oven — under 175 if your oven will go that low.

Then, make the caramel. Combine all the ingredients except for the soda and salt in a 2-3 quart saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and swirl until the butter melts. The let it sit and boil until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It will take about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine your soda and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.

Lay out a piece of parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

When the caramel hits 300 degrees, take it off the heat…

…and stir in the salt/soda mixture.

It will start growing. This is the part where you’ll wonder if you haven’t made a big, big mistake because this stuff looks downright weird. However there’s method to the baking soda madness, since it’s creating an ultra-light caramel that will lay on extremely thin.

It will keep growing and probably fill up the pan. Stir it down to contain the reaction.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and pour on the crazy caramel. You need not use every last bit of it. I didn’t. I left maybe 15% of it in the pan.

Toss with two wooden spoons.

Lay out the big mass of caramel corn on the greased parchment and separate it into small pieces with the spoons or by hand (careful, it’s hot).

And you’re done! You’ll need to soak your caramel pan in water for at least 20 minutes before you can clean it, because the caramel will set up like rock. If you make caramel corn in humid weather, be sure to store it in an airtight container or zip-type plastic bag. Above all, don’t start eating it, because you won’t stop.

And with that I’m outta here for at least a week. Summer vacation. Back soon kiddies!

Filed under:  Caramel Corn, Desserts & Cookies | 1 Comment

Caramel Corn Recipe

What we have here is more like Cracker Jack than regular caramel corn, which is the way we roll in the Pastry household. Leave the peanuts out of you prefer, but be sure to add an extra teaspoon of salt to compensate.

1 ounce (2 tablespoon) vegetable oil
3.75 ounces (1/2 cup) popcorn kernels
5 ounces (1cup) salted peanuts
7 ounces (1 cup) white sugar
7.5 ounces (1 cup) light brown sugar
5.5 ounces (1/2 cup) light corn syrup
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Pour the oil into a large 4-quart sauce pan and set it over medium-high heat. Drop in three our four kernels of the popcorn and shake the pan a bit to coat them with oil. When one or two of the kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn and cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly askew to allow steam to escape. Shake the pan back and forth over the burner until the kernels stop popping, about four minutes. Apply cooking spray to a large bowl (stainless steel is nice), pour in the corn, toss in the peanuts and put the bowl in the oven to keep it warm. Lay a large sheet of aluminum foil out on your counter and apply cooking spray to that as well.

Next, in a medium saucepan combine the sugars, butter, corn syrup and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan or have an instant-read thermometer standing by. Place the mixture over medium heat and swirl gently until the butter melts. Boil without stirring until it reaches 300 degrees. Take the saucepan off the heat and gently stir in the salt and baking soda. It will foam up some, so be prepared.

Take the popcorn bowl out of the oven and pour the caramel over. Toss with two wooden spoons to coat, then lay it out on the greased foil. Using two forks, break the big clumps up into smaller pieces if you wish. Allow the mixture to cool, then store in an airtight container for a week.

Reader Roger adds:

One thing you failed to mention however is the secret to that wonderful movie theater pop corn with the lovely yellow hue and flavor. The secret is popping the corn in coconut oil. While the health nazis tend not to like coconut oil it really makes the difference in popcorn.

I also notice that your recipe doesn’t specify the type of peanuts. I suspect crackerjack traditionally uses Spanish peanuts that tend to be smaller and have tighter red skins than the Virginia peanuts. I think that’s what beer-nuts are also. I am unsure if that makes a big difference however.

Filed under:  Caramel Corn, Desserts & Cookies | 2 Comments