This recipe was handed down to me from a wonderful older lady (I hesitate to use the word “old,” because to me it is a very relative term these days. :-) Let's just say her hair is all white and she walks with a cane…). I have adapted it to make it slightly more healthy. It's not exactly sinless, though… in fact, I would call it decadent. I took a double batch to a recent church function and it was “gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday…” (Naming that song will get you nothing but a huge virtual high-five from me, but go ahead and do it in the comments anyway!)
This would be the perfect snack to have while watching that favorite holiday movie or staying up late for the inevitable Christmas Eve gift-wrapping party with your gift-wrapping buddy. :-)
Festive Caramel Corn
2/3 cup unpopped popcorn (The original recipe calls for 2 bags of microwave popcorn. I prefer not to do that, but don't let me stop you from doing it that way if it's more your style. )
3/4 cup coconut oil (The original recipe calls for margarine. I think the coconut oil is healthier (not that it really can matter with a recipe like this, lol) and also makes for a wonderful caramel — not coconutty, so not to worry — flavor. I would NOT recommend butter, because it would probably burn too easily.)
1 ½ cup brown sugar (This can be lessened a bit, if you like. I hardly ever use the full amount of sugar in a recipe, although I don't pay attention to how much I do put in. Never less than half, though.)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Pop the popcorn with your preferred method, then place in a large greased bowl. This makes a lot of popcorn, so LARGE is the word. Possibly HUGE, to allow room for stirring.
Grease two large pans with sides, like 13 x 9 or larger. A broiler pan or cookie sheet might also work, but sides make it easier later when you have to stir the popcorn in the pan.
Melt coconut oil over medium heat, then add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring this to a boil, but do not increase the heat in order to do so. Please learn from me on this one. I've had to throw away more than one batch because I was impatient and it burned. (You can tell it's burnt when the color becomes very dark and the smell is… well… burnt.)
Boil for 5 minutes. Again, keep the heat as low as possible — no higher than medium — while still maintaining the boil. (Same warning about the burnt thing applies here.)
Remove from heat; stir in baking soda and vanilla. This will make it bubble up, very exciting and scary, but have no fear, just mix them in.
Pour over popcorn and mix well, as quickly as possible. It will start to set up while you are stirring.
Place in greased pans.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir/break apart the popcorn, then return to oven. Repeat this process 3 more times, for a total cooking time of 1 hour. This is a really important part of the recipe. As you stir and break apart the popcorn, you will feel it becoming less sticky and more gently brittle, or maybe crumbly is a good way to say it. It's that melt-in-your-mouth idea, with just a little bit of crunch, which is one of the things that makes this recipe so awesome.
Let it cool; break it apart one last time (the kernels will be pretty much individual now and not stuck in large clumps anymore) and store it in a covered container. (And here let me just make a plug for a 1-gallon ice cream tub as the perfect vehicle for one batch of this recipe! …Those ice cream tubs are one of my favorite things; I'm thinking of writing a post about them. “101 Uses Of…,” or something like that.)
Enjoy! You might not be able to stop munching on it… just sayin'… :-)
Another of our favorite holiday recipes is what we have for breakfast on Christmas morning. It's a make-ahead yummy delight that always causes a stampede. I'll be posting it soon – to make sure you get in on the action, subscribe in the box on my sidebar! :-)