Monday, March 11, 2013
Oven Caramel Corn
In the time it takes to go to the store and purchase a box of Cracker Jacks, you can make your own homemade version, which is tastier and surely healthier and fresher than something made three months ago in a far off factory somewhere.
All you need is popcorn, butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and baking soda. The actual hands-on cooking time is but five minutes. After the caramel is poured over the popped corn, it spends an hour in the oven. And voila -- homemade caramel corn!
Pop some corn the old-fashioned way -- in a bit of oil on the stove top. (I suppose you can use microwave popcorn, but I've always hated it, so I can't recommend it.) Put it on a sheet pan that you've lined with foil or parchment paper.
Next, place the remaining ingredients (except the baking soda) in a saucepan and heat.
Cook the mixture for about five minutes, stirring all the while.
Remove the caramel from the heat and add one teaspoon of baking soda. (Do not skip this essential step.) Pour the caramel over the popcorn and, using the wooden spoon, try to mix it in. Don't fret about it; you'll have plenty of opportunities to repeat this step. Every 15 minutes, during the one-hour bake time, open the oven door and mix the caramel with the popcorn.
Soon it will be done -- and delicious. You can add peanuts at the beginning if you really want to replicate the Cracker Jack experience, and you can also add a small toy. These days the "prize" in Cracker Jacks is likely to be a small sheet of paper featuring a history quiz -- I experienced this recently, a convoluted "game" with obtuse hints. The answer was Susan B. Anthony which, despite having a master's degree in American history, I couldn't figure out. If only I'd continued on to the Ph.D. My advice -- put in a real toy. No need to turn a fun snack into a learning moment.