I recently included a bag of this caramel corn in a gift box for my daughter-in-law’s parents. The thank you from them included this comment: Huge hit! Don’t send again unless you can also send self control! Next time I’ll just portion it out into small, individual serving bags. I’m sure that’s what they meant! 😉
This recipe really is something special. When you know the secret, the result is a melt-in-your-mouth salty-sweet treat that will not stick to your teeth!
The secret to perfect caramel corn is not an ingredient. Even though there is a lot of love put into this recipe, that also is not the secret. TIME is the secret. This is not a difficult recipe but it takes time. Rush it and you will end up with caramel corn that sticks to your teeth. Take your time and enjoy it … the sounds of popcorn popping, the smell of the vanilla as it hits the syrup, the sight of the caramel slowly blanketing the popcorn as it bakes … yeah, I get a little carried away.
The point is to take the time to enjoy the process. Your patience and anticipation will be rewarded!
The Gifting Trio
Need a hostess gift? Or want to give something other than homemade cookies at Christmas? Fill one quart-sized cellophane bag with caramel corn, one with Chex Mix, and one with my seasoned pretzels. Tie each bag closed and then wrap the three bags together with a large ribbon. The bonus here is that all three of these snacks freeze well. Make in advance and have on hand to serve to company or give away! College kids and military personnel LOVE gift boxes.
Let’s Make Caramel Corn!
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup popping corn kernels
- 1 cup salted butter
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Heat vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add popping corn and stir to coat the kernels with the oil. Cover with lid. Gently and carefully move the pan back-and-forth every 30 seconds or so to keep the kernels from sticking and burning. Kernels should begin to pop within a minute or two. Continue moving the pan intermittently until the popping has almost stopped. Turn off heat. When popping has stopped, pour popped corn into a large bowl.
- While popcorn cools, place butter in a sauce pan and melt over low heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir to combine. Turn heat up a little and stir frequently as it comes to a slow, low boil. DO NOT RUSH THIS STEP -- bringing the syrup to a boil too quickly results in sticky caramel corn. When a line of bubbles form along the edge of the pan, reduce the heat to low and start a timer set for 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 250°.
- While syrup is heating, transfer 14 cups of the popped corn to a heat-tolerant bowl. Unpopped kernels should stay at the bottom of the first bowl and not end up in your caramel corn.
- Stir syrup slowly and almost constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid burning. A rubber spatula works great for this. Syrup will come to a rolling boil by the end of the 5 minutes.
- When the time is up, remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Syrup will "fizz" in reaction to the vanilla. Make sure you enjoy the aroma as you stir!
- Add the baking soda, stirring to distribute. This will cause the syrup to bubble up and thicken.
- Pour immediately over the popped corn. Fold syrup into the corn to distribute.
- Divide mixture between two rimmed cookie sheets or bar pans. I prefer using stoneware pans. Bake for one hour, stirring the caramel corn every 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Spread out a couple sheets of aluminum foil on the countertop and transfer caramel corn onto foil. Gently break up any large clusters and allow to cool completely.
- Store in resealable bags. Freeze for up to 3 months.