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Caramel Popcorn


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#1 Malawry

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 06:18 PM

I'm fairly comfortable with cooking caramel, but I have never made caramel popcorn. I positively adore the stuff if made well and want to try my hand at a batch or two. If it goes well perhaps I will make more for holiday gift-giving. Techniques? Recipes? Also, what's the best way to pop the corn for it? Oil-pop? (I think popping it in oil makes it taste fresher longer than popping with hot air or in the microwave.)

#2 Jason Perlow

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 06:19 PM

1) Go to supermarket.
2) Find box labelled "cracker jack"
3) Share and enjoy.
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#3 Malawry

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 06:26 PM

I don't care for over-molasses-y popcorn with near-rancid peanuts. Cracker Jack is for tourists. :laugh:

Crunch and Munch is closer to what I'm seeking, as commercial products go, but I know I can do much better in my home kitchen with the better butter and popcorn I normally keep on hand.

#4 Jaymes

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 06:31 PM

I am really looking forward to the responses in this thread. I make Caramel Corn all the time, and have for about forty years. I give away buckets of it at Christmastime, and take it to just about every potluck where I know children will be.

It is a HUGE hit, and I am famous for it.

That said, eGullet has some true culinary stars and I know that my Caramel Corn is about to get a lot better after everyone adds their thoughts and tips.

Here's what I do:

Caramel Corn

6 qts popped corn (I use an air popper. This stuff is NEVER around long enough for me to worry about it going stale. I can tell no difference in the final result of this recipe between air-popped and regular oil-popped [although I've never done a side-by-side taste test]. Also, in a pinch - like when I'm in a hurry or the popper is broken - I have made it with those big bags of pre-popped corn that you can buy in supermarkets. I don't think it's quite as good, but darn close and is still promptly and enthusiastically all eaten. The only caveat is that the already-popped stuff is also already salted, so if you use it, be sure to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.)

In heavy saucepan, over low heat, bring to boil the following:
1 C butter
2 T molasses (or 100% maple syrup, but I like molasses better)
1/2 C light corn syrup
2 C light brown sugar
1/2-1 t salt (see above)

Allow to boil for five minutes. Then, remove from heat and add:
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 large pkg pecan halves (or cashews, or peanuts or any nut you like - sometimes I use mixed nuts and it's wonderful)
Stir well to combine.

In a LARGE shallow pan (I actually got one of those gargantuan, wide stainless steel mixing bowls specifically in order to make this recipe) pour the hot syrup mixture over the corn and stir to coat as well as you can. Don't worry about covering every bit of corn perfectly because you're going to have lots more opportunities. :biggrin:

Bake at 250º for about an hour (more or less), watching to see when the corn is well-covered and is a nice golden color. Stir well every ten minutes for the first half-hour, then every fifteen minutes."

Pour out onto large sheet of waxed paper and allow to cool. Break into pieces and store tightly covered.

You can add anything to this that suits your fancy, like rum, or cinnamon, or chili powder.

I cannot possibly tell you how much I enjoy making this, or how much fun people seem to have eating it!!

Good luck, Miss M.

Edit: Directions edited by RPerlow, at Jaymes' request.

Edited by RPerlow, 06 December 2002 - 07:29 AM.


#5 nightscotsman

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 08:04 PM

OK batgrrrl - here's your chance to post your grandma's recipe for caramel cheesypoofs.

Jaymes - thanks so much for the recipe. I will have to try it this year.

And just for the record, the best caramel popcorn ever can be had from the Karamel Korn shop at the Lloyd Center in Portland. Fresh and warm. :wub:

#6 maggiethecat

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 10:47 PM

Jaymes: I never knew how much I needed this recipe until you posted it. I will Make Time in My Day tomorrow to make it. (What's another loose crown?)

Margaret McArthur

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#7 maggiethecat

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 11:02 AM

In a LARGE shallow pan (I actually got one of those gargantuan, wide stainless steel mixing bowls specifically in order to make this recipe)

Jaymes, ma'am: Do you bake the mixture in the stainless mixing bowl, or do you transfer it to a flat baking pan?

(I too have the enormous stainless bowl, which makes its annual appearance from the top of the shelf during fruitcake season.)

I have lots of stuff I *should* be doing today, but will find time for this and report back!

Margaret McArthur

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#8 Jaymes

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 11:27 AM

In a LARGE shallow pan (I actually got one of those gargantuan, wide stainless steel mixing bowls specifically in order to make this recipe)

Jaymes, ma'am: Do you bake the mixture in the stainless mixing bowl, or do you transfer it to a flat baking pan?

(I too have the enormous stainless bowl, which makes its annual appearance from the top of the shelf during fruitcake season.)

I have lots of stuff I *should* be doing today, but will find time for this and report back!

Maggie - I am absolutely tickled that you're trying this, and I can hardly wait to hear the outcome.

I DO bake it in that big stainless bowl (it is a rather shallow, quite wide one). The reason is that you have to stir it several times in order to completely distribute the caramel, and I think it would be more difficult in a flat baking pan. If you have one of those really large, flat commercial bakers (with sides), that might be better than the bowl, but I don't have one. The idea is that you want as much surface area as possible exposed to the heat, but stirring 6 qts of popcorn can be a bitch. If you have a large enough baker, then skip the bowl thing. Just pour your popcorn into the baker, pour the hot caramel over, and start off.

Also - a note about the stirring - the first time you stir, it's pretty difficult going, so just do the best you can. It gets easier as the caramel heats up.

Edit: If you're moved to add the rum or maple syrup or some other such deviation, I'd suggest you make a batch or two with just the basic recipe so you can see how it's supposed to come out before you start "fiddling."

Maggs - you're gonna love it. :rolleyes:

Edited by Jaymes, 04 December 2002 - 01:00 PM.


#9 Dana

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 12:21 PM

The recipe I've used for 20 years is the same as Jaymes', except without the molassas. (I hate molassas - probably the only person on the planet!!). I bake mine in large cake pans, and make sure to put them on the top oven rack, as I had it burn in my crappy oven. I never thought about using a stainless bowl-will try that this year. I always make a couple of batches and give then away on large ziploc bags.(anyway, what's left after I've eaten all I can)
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#10 Jaymes

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 12:48 PM

The recipe I've used for 20 years is the same as Jaymes', except without the molassas. (I hate molassas - probably the only person on the planet.)

Well, I do like molasses, but the recipe only calls for 2T so the flavor is not exactly overwhelming.

But since you don't like it - why don't you try adding 2T of good-quality 100% maple syrup. That's really good as well.

#11 maggiethecat

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 03:56 PM

For the Love of God, STOP ME!

I have Jaymes's caramel corn cooling on my counter, and taking up most of it...this recipe makes A LOT.

Ladies and gents, it's kickass-good. Addictive. Fortunately, the ol' PC is in another area of the house, and I had enough strength of will not to have brought a dish with me.

Great flavour, and not too sticky, which I like. This aspect makes it easier to inhale handfuls, and my crowns are still intact.

Just a hint of molasses taste, and the nuts (I used almonds and pecans) are a treat all by themselves. It was really easy to make (the hardest part was rebuffing the overtures of Willow the Cat, who wanted to Help.) Cleanup not bad, and my wicket remains unsticky. :biggrin:

I will make more(note to self: Buy some tins.) I like the flavour of the topping so much I might bump up its volume by a 1/4 next time.

Thanks, Miss Jaymes. I think I know what the lucky brothers-in- law will get for Christmas this year. SO much better than the classic socksandunderwear.

Most highly recommended.

Margaret McArthur

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#12 Jaymes

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 04:50 PM

I am absolutely estatic for you, and that I was able to help! And, thanks for getting back to me so soon. This is instant gratification!

Jolly good thing about those wickets remaining clean - you know how a sticky one can slow a girl down. :biggrin:

#13 Malawry

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 06:53 PM

If I have a snow day tomorrow, I will try it then myself. Keep your fingers crossed. :biggrin:

#14 Dana

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 11:58 PM

I do love maple syrup and will try that next time. Thanks!!!
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#15 Malawry

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 09:50 AM

I got my snow day today, and the popcorn just went in the oven. I'll report back once it comes out.

#16 Malawry

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 12:06 PM

OK, Jaymes's recipe is delicious, but not quite what I was looking for. The resulting popcorn is dark colored, like Cracker Jacks, and not too sticky. It's quite tasty, and I'm enjoying munching on it, but I am not satisfied despite the popcorn's fine qualities. I want something more golden than brown, something stickier that you have a harder time separating. Any suggestions?

#17 Jaymes

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 12:40 PM

OK, Jaymes's recipe is delicious, but not quite what I was looking for. The resulting popcorn is dark colored, like Cracker Jacks, and not too sticky. It's quite tasty, and I'm enjoying munching on it, but I am not satisfied despite the popcorn's fine qualities. I want something more golden than brown, something stickier that you have a harder time separating. Any suggestions?

Delete molasses and cook it less??? Maybe cook the syrup less? and then also in the oven less?

Actually, what you are describing now sounds more to me like popcorn balls - sticky - you have to pull them apart.

I prefer the Carmel Corn, and so know nothing about the popcorn balls type.

If you get no responses here, you might Google popcorn balls and look over the recipes you get. Then, you can compare it to mine and see what you can come up with.

Edit: I've also had Popcorn Cake - sticky golden caramel - and you make it in a round sponge-cake pan. The version I used to make for the kids' B-Day parties also had M&M's. It was delicious, sticky and caramely and looked very festive, as you might imagine. Looked for that recipe a while back but couldn't find it. I think these are closer to what you're looking for rather than just regular caramel corn.

Edited by Jaymes, 05 December 2002 - 12:43 PM.


#18 Suvir Saran

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 12:54 PM

OK, Jaymes's recipe is delicious, but not quite what I was looking for. The resulting popcorn is dark colored, like Cracker Jacks, and not too sticky. It's quite tasty, and I'm enjoying munching on it, but I am not satisfied despite the popcorn's fine qualities. I want something more golden than brown, something stickier that you have a harder time separating. Any suggestions?

Chefette had made caramel popcorn as part of the Cornucopia she did a demo on at the Javits Center. Her caramel popcorn was also not gooey or sticky.. but was certainly delciously crunchy and caramely. Maybe you can ask her for a recipe.. and being a trained chef, she can give you ideas about how to make it gooey and sticky. Also Cheffette's popcorn was golden in color. A beautiful color. Everything about the Cornucopia was great. And actually if memory serves me well, you may have been helping her at the demo. :shock:

#19 jhlurie

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:01 PM

OK, Jaymes's recipe is delicious, but not quite what I was looking for. The resulting popcorn is dark colored, like Cracker Jacks, and not too sticky. It's quite tasty, and I'm enjoying munching on it, but I am not satisfied despite the popcorn's fine qualities. I want something more golden than brown, something stickier that you have a harder time separating. Any suggestions?

That one sounds like Fiddle Faddle, I mean except for the fact that you haven't mentioned nuts. Has anyone mentioned Fiddle Faddle? I just like the way it sounds: Fidddddddle Faddddddle. Excuse me while I have another drink and watch the snow fall.

Wait... my google search actually found a homemade fiddle faddle recipe. Actually it doesn't sound that different from what Jaymes posted. Maybe there are only so many variations on sugar, butter and popcorn.

Edited by jhlurie, 05 December 2002 - 01:03 PM.

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#20 ChocoKitty

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:19 PM

Dumb question, but what's the difference between caramel popcorn and toffee popcorn? In my mind, the toffee popcorn is golden, while caramel popcorn is more brown. Or am I completely off?

I'm starting to do a little Googling myself. You're all making me hungry.

#21 Jaymes

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 01:33 PM

You know, I've been thinking about this, and my Caramel Corn is not a deep brown color at all. It is golden - nowhere near a brown molasses color, nor as dark as Cracker Jacks....

I would say that maybe, Malawry, you cooked it too long, or maybe your oven was too hot?

But even when it comes out a light, lucious, golden (and in fact, almost a shimmering iridescent) yellow, my Caramel Corn is not sticky, so it's still probably not what you're looking for.

:rolleyes:

Edited by Jaymes, 05 December 2002 - 02:47 PM.


#22 Jaymes

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Posted 05 December 2002 - 02:02 PM

Maggie - did your Caramel Corn come out dark???? :unsure:

#23 maggiethecat

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Posted 10 December 2002 - 10:16 PM

My recipe came out a very light golden brown.

And it's almost time to make more. I just wandered downstairs and His Handsomeness said "This caramel corn is really good!" Of course, we're almost at the bottom of the tin and he's eating tons of buttered caramelized pecans. Poor sweetie!

But seriously, having a tub of this around takes care of:
1)Out the door breakfast
2)Quick gift to neighbours who don't cook and watch a lot of TV.
3)Topping for breakfast yoghurt (and maybe cereal)
4)Quick snack at any time
5) Cocktail snackie...with the right cocktail
6)Dessert
7)Ice cream topping
8)Artisinal Christmas giftie for the hard to please...they will like it!
9)Late-night surfing...like right now, in a coffee mug!

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#24 Malawry

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 06:32 AM

I think mine turned out so dark because I used dark brown sugar...I didn't have any light brown sugar around...plus I used the full amount of molasses. It was never hard to stir, not even the first time like Jaymes said, and the caramel was this dark color when I poured it on the popcorn. It didn't darken a lot in the oven, and I don't think I baked it at too high a temperature.

There's only one thing to do: make it again with light brown sugar. Sigh. :angry: :wink: :biggrin:

#25 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 07:04 AM

I know it's not exactly what you were asking for, but today's NYT has an article about perfecting the popcorn ball:

Sugar Sweet, and Heavy on the Crunch

#26 Jaymes

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 08:21 AM

I think mine turned out so dark because I used dark brown sugar...I didn't have any light brown sugar around...plus I used the full amount of molasses. It was never hard to stir, not even the first time like Jaymes said, and the caramel was this dark color when I poured it on the popcorn. It didn't darken a lot in the oven, and I don't think I baked it at too high a temperature.

There's only one thing to do: make it again with light brown sugar. Sigh.  :angry:  :wink:  :biggrin:

But Malawry, it never turns out "sticky" so you have to pull it apart, like you said.

I really think what you're after is more like the popcorn ball recipes. Those do stick together (obviously, I guess it goes without saying, since it has to form a ball), and you DO have to pull it apart to eat it, or just bite into the ball.

My recipe never turns out sticky. You just put it in a bowl or something and pick up bits of it and munch.

#27 Suvir Saran

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 08:32 AM

I know it's not exactly what you were asking for, but today's NYT has an article about perfecting the popcorn ball:

Sugar Sweet, and Heavy on the Crunch

Thanks for the link Rachel.
Could be perfect timing. Malawry is looking for something a little sticky.
Jaymes was saying the ball shaped stuff could be sticky.
I saw the photograph to the above link... and definitely was ball shaped. But it had rice in it too.
But Malawry, it is worth your time to check it out. Who knows.. could be what you are looking for...

#28 Jaymes

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 10:57 AM

Just read that article about Popcorn Balls.

She begins by disparaging regular caramel corn (that would include Cracker Jacks, Crunch 'n Munch, Fiddle Faddle et al) as being a snack "not worth eating." -- Oooooh, my very favorite thing... Someone whose style of telling you what they like always seems to begin with first running down something/someone else. :hmmm:

But the recipe does look good. I may try it. Fortunately for me (unlike the author of the piece) I have room in my repertoire and fondness for MANY different recipes and types of caramel treats. :rolleyes:

And Malawry - that recipe looks more like what you were looking for when you said you wanted something sticky, that you had to "pull apart with your hands."

Edited by Jaymes, 11 December 2002 - 04:28 PM.


#29 chefette

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 12:16 PM

I did indeed have caramel popcorn as part of my corucopia dessert at the Javitts. Malawry was unavailable to assist since it was a school day but Edemuth was there to help me out. (thanks again Edemeth :smile: )

I was planning to demo my varamel popped corn but did not have the opportunity because of the structure of our demo. My approach is much different (and simpler) than the one Jaymes described.

I place about 300g of sugar and just a bit of water in a heavy saucepan (that has a cover with it) and cook it to soft ball, I then toss in about 1/3 cup unpopped popcorn kernels and stir them around. They will suddenly start blossoming just at the caramel stage. At this point for your own self protection you will want to put the top on and start madly shaking the pan around. When it stops making popping noises you open up, stir the corn around a minute or two to deepen the caramel color and pour our onto a sheet pan. If you do not move it around until it hardens it will stick together in big clumps than you need to break up. Then you can toss in a handful of nuts or whatever if you want. You could even caramelize them along with the corn in the first place.

Of course I did just make this up one time since I wondered what would happen if I tried caramelizing popcorn kernels in the same manner that I would caramelize almonds. Since I have never really been much of a popcorn fan, I did not even think to make popcorn first than caramelize it. The trick is to not put too much corn in the pot. For more caramel and a richer darker color use less corn (say 1/4 cup). This makes a bowl full and is fast and easy. After getting hit in the face with flying hot caramel coated corn though I had to resort to using the cover.

Edited by chefette, 11 December 2002 - 12:23 PM.


#30 Jaymes

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 12:23 PM

Hummm.. Veeeery interesting. Must try. :rolleyes:

And it'd be better for you - no butter.

No butter??

Edited by Jaymes, 11 December 2002 - 12:24 PM.