Last weekend our neighborhood had its annual Fall bonfire party. The food was potluck-style so we initially decided to celebrate the season by making Thai Pumpkin Soup. Then the weather took a crazy turn and it ended up being 85 degrees and humid (very unusual for October in Pennsylvania!) and we quickly realized that no one was going to be in the mood to eat soup. So, at the last minute we changed course and made a nice summery Mediterranean Quinoa Salad instead. We didn’t want to be too healthy though, so we supplemented our potluck offering with some delicious homemade caramel corn!
This was our first time making caramel corn and I was amazed by how simple it was. Granted, it was a bit labor intensive (we had to stir the popcorn every 15 minutes for an hour and a half) but there were no fancy candy thermometers or gadgets required. Just a wok, some popcorn kernels, butter, sugar, corn syrup and honey roasted peanuts… easy!
We referred to our go-to Asian cookbook, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, for instructions on how to pop the popcorn in our wok (it’s a great way to season a wok!) and I used this recipe Leite’s Culnaria for the caramel recipe and baking instructions. We threw in some store-bought honey-roasted peanuts to kick the recipe up a notch and I would say that our homemade caramel corn turned out pretty perfect. I think Matt would agree… he couldn’t stop eating it even as I was trying to take this photo! 🙂
Caramel Corn with Honey-Roasted Peanuts (adapted slightly from Leite’s Culinaria)
You will need…
1 cup uncooked Popcorn Kernels, divided
1 1/2 sticks Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/3 cup Light Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Honey Roasted Peanuts
Pop the popcorn kernels. To do this in a wok, heat approx. 1 tablespoon of peanut oil in your wok over medium heat. Put 3-4 kernels in the wok and cover. (For easier clean up, wrap the inside of your wok lid with aluminum foil!) When the test kernels in the wok pop, add in approx. 1/3-1/2 cup of kernels and re-cover. (If test kernels don’t pop, slowly increase the heat until they do, then add in the other kernels.) Shake the wok over the burner to keep it moving as the kernels heat up. In a few minutes the kernels will start to pop. Keep shaking until popping slows down, then carefully tilt the cover open and transfer the popped corn to a large baking dish.
Repeat this process with the remaining kernels until all of your popcorn is popped. You may need to use multiple baking dishes to hold your popcorn… you’ll be stirring it later so it’s better to leave some extra space! Add the honey-roasted peanuts to the popcorn and place in a 200°F oven to keep warm.
Prepare your caramel by heating the butter and sugar over medium heat. Add in the corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, remove the mixture from heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. Remove the popcorn from the oven and pour the caramel mixture evenly over the popcorn. Mix well with tongs (don’t worry if every kernel isn’t coated at this point, though) and return the popcorn to the 200° oven.
Bake the popcorn for 1 1/2 hours at 200°F, stirring and tossing thoroughly every 15 minutes. Allow the popcorn to cool before eating (if you have the willpower to wait!). Enjoy it immediately or store it in an airtight container for as long as it lasts (which won’t be long… it’s delicious!).
Above: Caramel Corn during a stirring break. Below: The finished product!