Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Caramel Corn Clusters...

We've done several cookies and a wicked brownie for Jeff's co-workers out here in Charlotte, introducing them to what we call the "Weekly Wednesday Treat Day". I had a cake picked out to make this week, but with as crazy hot and humid as it has been, the thought of turning the oven on for any length of time was not nearly as appealing as I thought the cake would be.

Instead, we decided we would give these Caramel Corn Clusters a go as all that was needed was a few minutes time on the stove! And no, we didn't bust out the packaged microwaveable sacks (which I'm sure would probably work fine if that's all you have) to pop the corn - for this treat, we went old school and tossed the kernels into a heavy saucepan, lined with a slick of canola oil. Actually, at first we only added two or three kernels into the cold oil and as soon as one of them popped after being set over the burner, we added the rest in. With a few shakes, lid slightly ajar to let steam escape, we had a brimming pot stuffed full of light, airy fresh popcorn!

Really, it doesn't take any more work than that - I forgot how fun making popcorn on the stove can be! Now, before moving on, I do suggest you pillaged through the popcorn and make sure there are no "old maids" hiding around - it don't think it would be any fun biting into these sweet cluster and biting into one of those unpopped kernels!

To hold all the popcorn together, a gooey, sticky syrup is created by heating together butter, brown sugar and brown rice syrup until it bubbles, thickens and comes to just under the hard-crack stage on a candy thermometer. With the heat immediately cut off to stop the syrup from going any higher, a hit of salt is stirred in, along with a shot of vanilla and a couple pinches of baking soda. It will sputter a bit when the vanilla hits the pot, so do remember to be careful.

The popped corn is then stirred in (be sure that you have used a big pot!) with a generous cup of salted peanuts to coat - you'll want to work quickly here as the more you stir, the caramel mixture will begin to cool and harden, making it difficult to get the popcorn evenly coated. Spread out over a sheet pan in a thin layer, you will soon be rewarded with quite the treat as soon as this candy cools - crunchy and sweet, with just the right delicate bite of salt to contrast.

We thought the peanuts were exceptional in this, but I'd still like to give this a try with others - cashews, toasted almonds or pecans come to mind first. Jeff also made a good suggestion of adding a dash or two of cayenne to satisfy those who love the combination of sweet and heat. If you want to go completely over the top and decadent, before you break up the popcorn into bite-sized clusters, melt a bit of dark chocolate (or perhaps, a trio of dark, milk and white!) and release your inner child, drizzling the liquid chocolate in messy lines all over the top.



  1. Call me crazy but I think homemade popcorn is so much better than that microwave bag stuff! I made a ton of this at Christmas - drizzled chocolate all over it and called it moose munch. It was so much fun to make! And my first experience with caramel.


  2. Homemade popcorn tastes so much better! And caramel popcorn is the absolute shiz! Yum!!

  3. This would taste heavenly with cashews...yum! You've got me thinking now.

    Thanks for sharing this delicious treat. How long do you think it would keep? I'm just being hypothetical here...who am I kidding, it wouldn't last that long around me! lol


  4. My mom has always used the basket from her deep-fat fryer to "sift" the old maids out of popped popcorn - so fast & easy!

  5. Quinn - I agree, but sometimes convenience wins the battle!

    Katrina - Yes!

    Avanika - So true.

    Jessica - We kept it for a week and it was still fine.

    Anon - Great tip!