Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homemade Caramel Corn

Ah, the magic of Blogger. It allows you to write posts in advance and schedule them to post later, all by themselves. That's mighty convenient for this weekend, since neither Becky nor I are anywhere near a computer. Beck's off leading 25 college students on a service project, which includes driving a 15-passenger van. I repeat: My tiny little sister is driving a 15-passenger van. Oh how I wish I was a fly on that windshield!

Me? I'm taking my much needed annual retreat, where I get to chill with these guys:

It's all about quality at this retreat. Quality reflection time. Quality scenery. Twenty other quality young people. Wacky priests who know a high quality wine when they see one. And quality homemade caramel corn.

(Does anyone else think that "quality" is a funny word now that they've said it so many times?!)

I always try to make this caramel corn before going on retreat, because it's great for munching between meals, and as anyone who's ever been on a retreat knows, the one thing you do more than any other is eat. One batch of caramel corn fills up three large tupperware containers. That's one container of caramel corn per day of retreat, if we ration it well. Which we usually don't.  :-)

I post this recipe today also because I know many of you will make your own retreats this evening - retreats to the couch, that is, in honor of that golden dude, Oscar. What better way to celebrate this year's grandest films than with popcorn, all fancied up?

For those of you who've never popped popcorn on the stove, it's way easier than it sounds. Same goes for making caramel. If you can measure sugar and water into a pot and exercise a little patience, you're golden (and we may start calling you Oscar).

Whether you're chillin' with 25 college students, Bambi & friends, or Oscar this weekend, consider making this caramel corn. It's quality stuff.

- Katie

Homemade Caramel Corn

Adapted from via Joy the Baker
Makes about 6 cups

For the popcorn
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup roasted nuts (any variety you like)

For the caramel

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt (or other salt to taste)
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water

Make popcorn

1. Place oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add one kernel of corn and cover pan. When the single kernel pops, add unpopped popcorn and cover. Use pot holders to lightly shake the pan as the corn pops.

2. When the popping stops, turn of the heat, remove the pot from the burner and shake the popcorn into two large bowls (or one giant bowl). Sprinkle with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Add nuts to bowls and set popped popcorn aside.

Make caramel

****Make sure you have a bowl of ice water or a cold water faucet very nearby in case you get any hot sugar on your body.***

3. Measure out butter and vanilla extract and set aside. Have salt ready near the popcorn, as well as a greased spatula or two.  Line a baking sheet with foil or a silpat, or simply cover a large, flat surface with foil or parchment.

4.  Measure sugar into a medium to large saucepan.  Pour water into pan, pouring down sides of pan, not directly on top of sugar.  Mark an X with your finger through the sugar and water.

5. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and let cook. Every three to four minutes, pick up pan and swirl (don't stir), Toffee Almond Crunch style. Sugar and water will begin to bubble and caramelize. You are looking for an amber color, which should take 20-30 minutes.

6. When you get an amber caramel color, remove sugar from heat, quickly add butter and vanilla extract. Mixture will bubble up. Swirl pan a few times until butter melts.

7.  Working quickly and carefully, pour hot caramel mixture over popcorn and stir with greased spatula to coat popcorn. Be especially careful of hot sugar at this stage. Carefully pour popcorn out onto parchment or foil. Break up large clumps with spatula.  Sprinkle with salt to taste.  Let come to room temperature.

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