Caramel Corn – What would the holidays be without caramel corn. Starting with Halloween, there are popcorn balls to be enjoyed. I know traditionally popcorn balls are not made from caramel corn, but why not? As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to get going on the Christmas goodies. At the top of my list and the list for my family and friends is salted caramel – caramel corn. So good that I used to gift one- gallon bag per family. Now I am told, “It is challenging to share, and could I please have my own bag?” Hence, the amount of caramel corn I make grows each year.
A colleague and good friend Devon loves my caramel corn. When I bring it into work, I give one gallon to her, and the rest of my colleagues all share a gallon bag. Devon, on occasion, will disguise her caramel corn in an unused biohazard bag to discourage poaching.
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What Do I Need To Make Caramel Corn?
Popcorn: You will need 6 quarts of popped popcorn. I know this sounds crazy, but I like the extra butter microwave popcorn. Something about the salt and butter taste that makes the caramel corn extra good. If microwave popcorn isn’t for you, then, by all means, pop the corn of your choice.
Sugar: You need two different sugars. Brown sugar and light corn syrup. The two sugars are necessary to help prevent the crystallization of the caramel. Use light brown sugar and not the dark brown sugar.
Butter: Gives the caramel it’s thick pourable consistency and oh so buttery taste.
Other: salt, baking soda, and vanilla. All help break up the sugar crystals, keeping your caramel smooth and tasty.
How to make Caramel Corn:
Pop 6 quarts of popcorn and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Heat the popcorn bowl in the oven to help prevent the caramel from sticking to the bowl. You will want a metal or oven-safe glass bowl big enough to hold 6 quarts of popcorn.
Heat the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup until boiling. Boil until the caramel is a deep caramel color or 250 degrees on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Add the salt, vanilla, and baking soda. The caramel will foam up; this is normal. Remove from the heat, continue stirring until the caramel stops foaming.
Remove the pan from the oven, spray with a little nonstick spray, add the 6 quarts of popped corn. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir to coat the popcorn. Once the popcorn is evenly coated, spread the caramel popcorn out on two large cookie sheets.
Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Remove from the oven every 20 minutes and stir the popcorn. Stirring keeps the caramel popcorn from sticking to the sheet pan. Rotate the pans, top to bottom, front to back every 20 minutes.
At the end of an hour, the caramel corn should be crunchy and not sticky once it cools. If it is slightly soft or sticky, bake for 20 more minutes.
Make the Caramel Corn Gourmet!
Level-up your caramel corn with gourmet toppings.
—Rocky Road – add mini-marshmallows, nuts, and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.
—Moose Munch Mix – Go all out with gourmet nuts (pecans, cashews, macadamia, or peanuts) and a generous drizzle of either melted dark or milk chocolate.
—Zebra Mix – Get your chocolate fix with lots of dark and white chocolate combined to form zebra stripes coating this batch of caramel corn.
—Peppermint Crunch – The ultimate Christmas Caramel Corn. This caramel corn has peppermint chips (soft peppermint-flavored white chocolate chips) sprinkled throughout, with a bonus of crushed crunchy candy canes added. All this deliciousness is then drizzled with melted dark chocolate. HEAVENLY!!!
Storing the Caramel Corn:
Store the caramel corn in an airtight container. A ziplock bag works great.
I don’t make Caramel Corn from March to September because it is too humid. Caramel corn will absorb moisture from the air, losing the crunchy texture.
Give soft caramel corn that crunch back by re-drying it in a 225-degree oven for 30 minutes.
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Salted Caramel - Caramel Corn
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- Large metal mixing bowl. Big enough to hold 6 quarts of popcorn.
- 6 quarts popcorn extra butter microwave popcorn
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- ½ cup Corn syrup Karo Light
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp Salt 2 tsp if you use unsalted popcorn
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- To adjust the portions, click on the number of serving, and a slider will pop up. Adjusting the slider up or down will automatically calculate the amount needed for each ingredient.
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Prewarm the popcorn mixing bowl to keep the caramel from sticking to the bowl.
- Add brown sugar, corn syrup, butter to a kettle. Use a heavy bottom kettle if possible.
- Cook until the mixture reaches 250°F with an instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer.
- Remove kettle from the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and baking soda. The caramel sauce will foam up. Stir until the sauce stops foaming.
- Spray the prewarmed mixing bowl with a little nonstick cooking spray and add the 6 quarts of popcorn to the bowl. Pour the caramel over the popcorn. Stir to evenly coat the popcorn. (see notes for making popcorn balls)
- Spread the caramel-coated popcorn on two large baking sheet pan.
- Dry the caramel corn in the oven for 1 hour. (see notes) Every 20 minutes, stir the caramel corn on the sheet pans and rotate the pans, top to bottom.
- Let caramel corn cool and place in airtight containers for storage. (see notes)