Saturday, May 21, 2011

No More Sweet Talk!

Do you remember that time I promised you caramel corn? Today I shall deliver, and hopefully before The Rapture hits (crossing my fingers)!

I sometimes dream about caramel corn the same way I dream about beef jerky and those tofu egg patties (has anyone thought of a name for those yet?). Ew, and I truly mean beef jerky, get your mind out of the gutter! I recently decided to make my dream of caramel corn a reality and now, without further adieu, I bring you:

I was lucky enough to have all of the ingredients on hand---well, more like "on chair". Har, har, harrrrrr.

Ingredients relaxing in the world's comfiest chair.

1 Cup Earth Balance
2 Cups Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Corn Syrup
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
18 Cups Popped Popcorn (3/4 Cup Dry Kernels)
1/4-1/2 Cup Canola or Vegetable Oil

At this point in time I am also utterly addicted to the Cajun-Flavored popcorn from the Bayou Boogie and thus decided that nothing on Earth would taste better than Cajun-Flavored Caramel Corn. So, I also used the following spices to cajunize (not to be confused with cannonize) the corn:

Garlic Salt, Creole Seasoning and Cumin.
I would have used Chili Powder as well but didn't have any on hand and was too engrossed in the project to go get some from the grocery store a half a block away. 

So, the first things first and that's popping the corn. Did you know that you don't need a fancy Joe Namath Air Popper from 1974 to make really delicious popcorn from "scratch"? No, you don't (but it's still really cool and if you DO have one I am Jealous---yes, with a capitol J). Anyway, you can do it the ol' fashioned way with a big stockpot and a lid. Yeah, not as exciting, but it gets the job done.

 Here we have the 1/4-1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil (enough to juuuust cover the kernels) and a generous helping of spices depending on your desire for Cajunization. (Yes, it's a word. I'm almost positive.)

 After it's in the pot you want to mix it up and put a lid on it.

Crank your stove up to high heat and wait. Wait for it. Keep waiting. 

Once you hear the kernels hitting the lid rapidly you will want to crack the lid ever so slightly. It is somewhat of an art and I guarantee you will probably burn your first batch, but that's why you bought a whole bag of kernels!
 When you lift the lid and your popcorn looks like this, it is time to dump that steaming hot pile of (this is sounding less and less appetizing)...just flip it over into the giant bowl that you so thoughtfully placed on the counter near the stove-top for this exact purpose. 

**CAUTION: Some kernels may still be HOT and ready to POP so dump with conviction and don't look directly at the corn**

Now you are ready to separate your popcorn into TWO bowls (after it has cooled a little bit and all the post popping kernel missiles have been diffused). Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees and get started on your caramel sauce.

Melt the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly; sing a song, memorize the alphabet backwards, whatever. Once it starts boiling you can stop stirring (FINALLY!) and let it boil for 4 minutes. 

After 4 minutes, remove from heat add vanilla and baking soda and stir. Again.

While your caramel sauce is cooling, line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Parchment paper is wax paper, just an FYI. It took me longer than I would like to admit to discover that they were, in fact, the same thing.

And now it is time to pour the caramel sauce onto the popcorn. That is, if you haven't already consumed it by dipping various things you find around your kitchen into it. Radishes? Surprisingly good. Pickles? I think I might puke.

As you can see the Food Gods are ever-present. And that caramel is lucky to have made it this far! After both bowls of popcorn are evenly caramelized it is time to....STIR! Stirring sticky, ooey, gooey caramel into a bowl of delicate puffed air is kind of annoying, but I promise it's worth it.

Seriously, stop stressing out about all the broken pieces! That just means there's more caramel in those bites and that's why we're doing this, right?

Now you need to spread your newly caramelized popcorn onto the parchment lined baking sheets and bake them for 1 hour.

At least, that is what you are TECHNICALLY supposed to do, but I like my caramel corn REALLY sticky. So sticky that I can't figure out if I'm sucking on a stray kernel or my dislodged tooth. So, I opted out of the baking process and decided to just let it set. If you do decide to bake it, remember to stir the popcorn every 15 minutes; and again, bake for 1 hour.

And, let's be honest, of course I didn't let it set! We started eating that stuff the second I put down the caramel bowl. And it was good. And it lasted all of 3 days.

That bulge, in my cheek, CARAMEL...and probably a kernel, but not a tooth.

In the weeks to come you have tamales to look forward to as well as my second attempt at JERKY! (When am I not talking about Jerky?!). My first attempt was so successful that there was no time to document before Patrick and I ate all the evidence.

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