Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I'm not sure why, and when I actually thought about it I realized I had no idea why we celebrate this holiday or why everyone loves it so much. Maybe it's because this is the one holiday we have where we can dress in costume? Or perhaps it's because Halloween got us hooked at an early age with the yearly prospect of endless pillowcases of candy. I'll admit it– I still get excited at the prospect of fun-sized candies this time of year.
So when I was thinking of what to make for Halloween this week I thought what better way to celebrate the occasion than to elevate a childhood sweet treat: caramel popcorn! Cracker Jacks are fun and all, but let's be honest we got them for the prizes. Homemade carmel popcorn is a revelation: super crispy, nutty, not painfully sweet, a slight salty and extremely addictive.
It is really easy to make at home with just a few ingredients and yields more than you can possibly handle. The extra step of placing the popcorn in the oven is key to getting every nook and cranny coated so don't skip it.
Happy Halloween folks!
– 1 3.3 oz of microwavable popcorn, natural-flavored and “cook” according to directions
– 1 cup of light brown sugar
– 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
– 6 tbsps of unsalted butter
– pinch of kosher or sea salt
– 1/2 tsp of baking soda
– 2 tsps of vanilla extract
– 1 handful of salted roasted peanuts
Pour the popcorn into a large mixing bowl. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter over low heat and add the sugar, corn syrup, salt and add 2 tbsps of water. Turn the heat to medium high and stir with a whisk until a candy thermometer reads 250 degrees (about 3-5 minutes).
Turn off the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla and whisk together. It will bubble up and turn a light color. Quickly pour the mixture over the popcorn and lightly fold the caramel in the best you can without breaking the kernels too much. Add the peanuts. Don't worry if it isn't entirely coated and the caramel hardens– that's what the next step is for.
Pour the mixture over a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet and place in the oven.
After 20 minutes or so check on it and the caramel should be melty. Using a spatula mix the popcorn so that the caramel evenly coats the nuts and popcorn. You can repeat this a couple of times waiting about 10-15 minutes in between.
When the mixture is sufficiently coated, take the popcorn out and let it cool– it won't take very long for the caramel to harden. Store in air tight containers and enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from here)