Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Maple Popcorn Caramel Crunch...

Lots of poppin' was going on today getting the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day ready! All that noise was because I needed several cups of popcorn for this Maple Popcorn Caramel Crunch recipe I made.

Once I got the popcorn ready and threw the airy pieces into a large pan, I toasted a wealth of pecans and scattered them over the top to get the base together. To make the maple-laced caramel we were going to pour over the top, we placed butter, maple syrup, corn syrup and salt into a large skillet and let the heat from the stove slowly bring the ingredients to a bubble.

Be sure to place a drink near your burners and either start some music or turn on the TV because you'll be strapped to the pot as this sticky mess needs to be stirred constantly while it boils. You'll also need a candy thermometer, but don't let that scare you away! Dust it off and bring it out as you won't want to pass over this one.

Once the sugary caramel has come up to the hard-crack stage, about 300 degrees, we took the pot off the heat and stirred in maple extract to boost the maple notes. If you don't have the extract, I wouldn't fret about having to buy a whole bottle for just this recipe, but I did think it worked in a noticeable difference. Vanilla would probably be fine though. We quickly, but carefully, poured this over the nuts and popcorn - once the last drops fell from the pan, we stuck a couple wooden spoons in to give it a thorough toss, giving each piece contact with the molten mix. It will probably be fairly clumpy at first, but once it has a chance to cool down so you can handle it, you'll see that the popcorn can be broken into bite-size nuggets.

While we've had regular caramel popcorn before, working maple syrup into the mix was a first for me and will definitely not be the last! It is quite sweet, but using the recommended amount of salt will help cut that down to a reasonable level. Quite crunchy, nice and nutty with alluring mapleness in each bite, I can see us making this often, either to fill up cellophane bags for bake sales, to give away as treats for friends or even just to satisfy a wicked sweet tooth!

*No pictures for the dinner tonight - the camera is being fussy and not wanting to transfer them! I'll keep working on it - sorry!

When I was going over the recipe for dinner tonight, Ham-and-Egg Fried Rice, something about the ingredient list looked a bit odd. It called for "1 1/4 cups cooked rice" - but, for 4 servings, that seems pretty skimpy if you ask me... it is a fried rice after all! I just assumed they meant to say 1 1/4 cups rice, cooked, and that is what I ended up doing.

It did call for the rice to be a white variety, but you are more likely to find brown basmati in our pantry and I used that. I cooked the rice last night using our favorite no-fuss method so the rice had time to chill and dry out in the refrigerator before I went to use it. Cold rice works best (especially day old) as the grains will firm up and separate easier - if you use freshly cooked rice that is still warm, the results will be much softer and almost mushy. However, I am far from an expert on fried rice, but this has just been my experience! If you don't have leftover rice or forgot to prepare it the day before, try and give it at least a couple hours resting time.

Before the rice went into the skillet, we heated strips of ham, the whites from a bunch of scallions, fresh ginger and a few cloves of garlic. Once the ham had started to gain a bit of color, we tossed in the cold rice, the greens from the above scallions along with equal parts rice vinegar and soy sauce. After flipping the mix around and completely heating it through, we scooped out the rice into the serving bowls, wiped out the skillet and added a drizzle more of canola oil.

What came next? Four eggs! However, instead of scrambling them first or with the rice, we gently slid them into the skillet and let them fry until the whites were set, yet the golden yolk was still quite soft and fluid. You could, of course, cook the eggs to whatever degree your heart desires, but leaving them softer and letting the yolk ooze its richness over the rice after poking the egg was truly a delicious experience. It did seem a bit heavier than other types of fried rice we have done, but we didn't find that unappealing at all. I wasn't sure how well the ham was going to dance with the rest of the ingredients, but it went surprisingly smooth and not out of place!


  1. Joe I just want to say I LOVE the way you cook rice. I just made my second batch using the pasta method half brown half white for dinner tonight (made carmelized black pepper chicken). The rice comes out perfect and its the best for fried rice. I never was able to make good fried rice before. Thanks again

  2. What a super idea for treat of the week. I love savory popcorn but would try this one. Looks really yummy Joe.

  3. Thanks for the Popcorn recipe!!! YUM! I have been into making popcorn lately for a snack and this sounds really nice. :)

  4. Two words when looking at this popcorn - Hallo Gorgeous! This looks wonderful and like something I need to make!

  5. Kimmy - Doesn't make life so much easier?!

    Helene - You have to try it!

    Pat - This went over quite well at the office! I think you'd like it!

    Jen - hee hee!

  6. You know, I quite loved my candy thermometer--that is, until I dropped it into some caramel I was making two weeks ago. Darnnit, I miss it already. I need to run out and get a new one so I, too, can have this awesome caramel corn treat.