There are some things that I refuse to buy when I go shopping. Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate squares. Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. York Peppermint Patties. I don’t purchase them because I know that if I do– well, it’s pretty likely that I’ll have devoured them before the sun sets that day. This is why I only buy chocolate when I’m baking. I only get peanut butter cups at Halloween. And I only get my peppermint patty fix when the guy in the big red suit leaves them in my stocking on Christmas morning. And while I can’t make my own chocolate (and if I can, please don’t teach me how to), I’ve purposely avoided making my own homemade versions of the other two because I know that it will be a bad, bad thing for me if I do.
There’s one more thing on my can’t get enough of it, so I don’t buy it list: caramel popcorn. Give me a bag of Poppycock and I’m happy, happy, happy. I’ll search out all of the caramelized peanuts, cashews, pecans, and almonds, leaving just the popcorn for the kids. What? They don’t like nuts. I’m doing them a favor.
I broke my rule, though. I made homemade caramel popcorn, and it’s better than the stuff in the bag. Like, it’s way better than the stuff in the bag.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
adapted from the Caramel Popcorn recipe on allrecipes.com—1500+ people weren’t wrong
20-24 cups plain popped popcorn (microwave popcorn recipe x 3)
2 cups mixed nuts (cashews, peanuts, pecans)
1 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. amaretto (or vanilla extract)
½ tsp. baking soda
Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees F.
Spray a very large baking dish—I used a super huge disposable foil pan—with non-stick cooking spray. In the pan combine the popcorn (make sure you’ve removed all of the stray kernels),
and the salt.
Place the pan in the oven to warm the popcorn and toast the nuts.
Gather all of your ingredients together. Caramel is one of those things in life that happens quickly even though it seems to take forever, so you’ll want to have everything readily at hand. I hadn’t decided yet between the amaretto and the vanilla, which is why they’re both there. I went with the amaretto.
In a high sided, heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt the butter over medium heat.
Once the butter is melted, stir in brown sugar until it’s melted.
It’s 2 cups brown sugar– please excuse to uber-blur and lack of a second cup of sugar. I was moving quickly.
Then stir in the corn syrup.
I took the thermometer out for a second to evenly stir everything together; however, I put it right back in after taking this shot.
Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Stop stirring.
Allow the caramel to boil for approximately 4 minutes or so or until it reaches between 250 to 260 degrees.
While the caramel is boiling, remove the popcorn from the oven and set it nearby for easy access. You’ll also want pot holders and a large fork or spoon nearby. I used a fork.
Once the caramel comes to up to temp, then remove it from the heat and stir in the amaretto (or vanilla extract). Then add the baking soda.
The mixture will lighten significantly in color, swell up, and it may appear foamy. You’ll think, “Oh, no! I’ve totally ruined it!” But, no, it is not ruined.
Whisk it together. Don’t worry if it looks a little grainy.
Quickly, but very, very carefully, pour the caramel sauce as evenly as you can over the popcorn and the nuts.
You want to work quickly because the caramel thickens as it cools, but you’ll want to work carefully because it will burn you quite badly if you spill any on yourself. Caramel is molten sugar and it will stick to and melt your skin. Yeah, it’s gross and seems melodramatic, but I’ve done it when turning out hot monkey bread and I still bear the psychological and physical scars. Melted sugar hurts. A lot. Oh, and don’t taste the caramel. It smells divine. It calls your name. It will burn your tongue.
Once the caramel is poured over the popcorn, set the pot off to the side, and using the large fork or spoon, stir the caramel around in the popcorn. It will not seem like enough caramel, but it is.
Make sure you get the stuff at the bottom where the caramel may have pooled and the nuts may have settled. Stir and stir and stir some more.
Don’t use your hands to stir it—use the fork or spoon. I wouldn’t normally say this, but I read a review from someone who blamed the original recipe writer for not telling her to not use her hands to stir hot caramel. So, you know, use the spoon.
Once everything is mixed up, bake the caramel popcorn for approximately 30 to 60 minutes, stirring it every 10 to 15 minutes. The longer you bake it, the crunchier it is—just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. I took mine out of the oven at 30 minutes.
Remove it from the oven, and let it cool for 30 minutes or so if you can. Break up the chunks. Once it is cool, store it in an airtight container.
This container hold 16 cups. The four of us ate 2 cups and we put the remaining 2 cups in a zip-top bag.
The caramel and salt balance each other out well.
The amaretto enhances the flavor of the nuts.
Yield: approximately 22-26 cups; I’ll let you decide how many servings that is.
Photo for pinning: