Monday, December 30, 2013

Handmade Christmas: Caramel Popcorn Mix

I was a little frightened of this recipe, which called for me to make my own caramel - something I had never done before. Turns out, it's easy-peasy, and the results are delicious!

This recipe is adapted from

You will need to have the kitchen to yourself, so warn everyone to stay out. Also, you may want to make sure your dental insurance is up to date.


1/2 cup popcorn kernels, preferably yellow kernels (Or one standard microwave popcorn bag)
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 Tbs. sea salt
1 cup water
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup nuts (I used 2 cups of pecans)
1/2 cup Smarties or M&Ms
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Special Equipment
Pastry brush
Candy thermometer
Wire whisk

Step 1: Pop the corn
Use your favourite method. I'm lazy, so I prefer the microwave, but I accidentally burnt my first batch (because I was double-tasking at the time, breaking the pecans into quarters).  Warning: this recipe will not tolerate double-tasking.

Put the popcorn and nuts into a bowl. Have two heat-proof spatulas handy.

Line two pans with parchment or silicone paper.

Step 2: Make the caramel

Follow these instructions TO THE LETTER. If it tells you to tap your forehead, then TAP YOUR FLICKING FOREHEAD!  (Sorry. My inner drill sergeant broke through.)

Have a wire whisk and your measured-out baking soda ready near the sink because when you need it, you'll need it quickly.  And you may need to be near the sink because of over-foaming.

Put the sugar, salt, water, and butter into a large pot. A really large pot. The mixture is going to foam like a rabid coon. Stir just enough to make sure all the sugar is underwater. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash any granules from the side down into the pot.

Now clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip is well immersed. Then crank up the heat to high.

DO NOT STIR. You're going to want to because, look:

But resist the urge. Watch the candy thermometer and the syrup. 

My temp seemed to plateau at about 220F, but I suspected that the tip might not be in deep enough, so I took it off the edge and moved the tip to the centre. 

Zoom! And about 5 seconds later, I saw this.

The YumSugar site advises that the caramel beneath the bubbles is much darker.
Go time!

I moved the pot over to the sink and whisked in the baking soda. (It foamed like crazy and looked like sponge toffee -- a golden colour, full of bubbles. 

Working quickly, pour the caramel over the nuts and popcorn. Use the two spatulas to toss the mixture. Dump the candy-coated mixture into your two pans. 

Warning: the caramel hardens quite quickly.

Use the spatulas to push the glob around. As soon as it is cool enough to touch, use your hands to break up any big blobs.

If you're adding candy, add them now. If I were to do this again, I'd skip the candy. It doesn't need it. (But it sure does look pretty!)

Step 3: Chocolate drizzle

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl, in the microwave, stopping and stirring about every 20 seconds until it drips. Use a spoon (or a teeny whisk, as I did) to splatter the chocolate over the mixture.

Oh, my heavens. This stuff is so incredibly good. Sweet, salty . . .  I just . . .
Let the candy set until the chocolate has dried and you can break it into small chunks. Then put it in a decorative container or plastic food bags.

Cost for this project was about $20, including the popcorn container I put it in. I would definitely do this one again!
Packaging makes it even better!

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