Yesterday, I had my first caramel disaster. It was long coming, I know. But I tried a second time, just to make these delicious morsels. Read on to know what happened.
Caramel popcorn is only available in the theatres here, and I was craving some bad!! Looked over a few recipes, combined them, and set off to make some popcorn.
Get a cup of unpopped corn ready. I only used half, but it was wayy too much caramel. A second batch with a whole cup worked out much better. This would roughly be equal to 1 1/2 microwaveable bags.
Pour a little oil in the largest pan you have, that has a lid, over high heat. Throw in a few kernels, and once they pop, the oil has heated up enough, and you can throw the rest of them in. Immediately place the lid on top, and let the kernels pop, shaking every once in a while to ensure fewer unpopped kernels. This will take about 5 minutes.
You should get double this amount. Grease a large bowl, enough to toss all the corn in, and two spatulas well. Also line three baking hseets with parchment paper. Transfer all the popcorn into it, and now you can start with the caramel.
Over high heat, combine the sugar, butter and water. This will ulitmately become a nice thick caramel for coating the popcorn. It will change in appearance slowly.
Here it is after 5 minutes of cooking. All the butter has melted, and the sugar is starting to melt.
At a rolling boil at 10 minutes
The color is beginning to mature at 15 minutes.
In another 2 or 3 minutes, it is ready for the baking soda mixture to be poured in. And it here that disaster struck!!
Baking soda causes the sugar to bubble up an aerate, and more than half of my mixture ended up on the stove, that I spent around 3 hours cleaning. [Note - Pepsi is a great cleaner. Who'd have thought?] You do not want to add it if the pan is already as full as mine, it should be no more than half full.
So on my second try, I was extra vary of the caramel bubbline over, dreading that cleaning again, and I used the same pan I popped the popcorn in. Even if the caramel multiplied 10 times, I would still have enough space in the pan! Anyway, once you reach that color, you take the pan off the heat, and add the baking soda.
It looks like very little, that's just because this pan is ginormous!! It will look very foamy and weird.
I couldn't get a clear picture, but you can see how the baking soda mixture lightened the caramel, it has also doubled in size. You just have to stir it in quickly, briefly, and then pour it over the popcorn. Toss it all up, and lay on the prepped baking sheets.
There are now two options - Some people just let the popcorn dry out at room temperate, and some bake in the oven for a short amount of time. I tried both, and decided it was purely up to preference. Leaving it at room temperate yields a more chewy, softer while not soggy popcorn. If you want a more crunchy popcorn, you could bake it for upto 30 minutes at a low heart.
I personally loved it baked for 15 minutes. Perfect texture, perfect consistency of the corn.
1 cup [212 g/ 7.5 oz] popcorn kernels
4 tbsp [56 g/ 2 oz] vegetable oil
1 cup [150 g] salted peanuts, optional - I didn't use
3 cups [650 g] sugar
1/2 cup [120 g] water
2 tbsp [1/4 stick, 28 g] butter
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon, optional
- Preheat oven to 140 C[280 F], if you intend on baking it in the end, as mentioned in the note just above the recipe.
- In a large, dry pan with a lid, pour the oil and let it heat up over high heat. Toss in a few kernels of popcorn, and when they pop, the oil has heated enough, and you can pour in the rest of the kernels.
- Cover with the lid immediately, and keep over high heat until popping has reduced to a few a minute. Give the entire pan a shake every minute or so, to ensure fewer unpopped kernels. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer to a greased bowl big enough to toss all the popcorn in. Also grease two spatulas/wooden spoons, and lay out three baking sheets with parchment. If you are adding peanuts, add it to the popcorn now.
- Now for the caramel. First mix together the salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
- Combine the butter, sugar and water in a large pan, the mixture should be no more than a 1/4 of the pan's height. Let it boil over high heat until it reaches a deep amber color, between 10-15 minutes. The larger pan will make the caramel cook faster, and so, it will take less time than mentioned above.
- Take it off the heat, pour in the baking soda mixture, and give it a few stirs. The caramel will lighten in color, and foam up. Immediately pour it over the popcorn, working quickly. Toss the popcorn using the two spoons, until it is evenly coated.
- Lay it onto the waiting baking sheets, in a more or less single layer. Either let cool at room temperature, or pop into the oven, stirring every 10 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container.