pop it like it’s hot!

One of my Thanksgiving ambitions was to try the caramel popcorn recipe I saw on How Sweet It Is.  Then I sort of got busy relaxing.  I didn’t feel like tending to caramel or timing the intervals between needing to take the treats out of the oven and stir to prevent scorching.  So on Thanksgiving I used store-bought toffee peanuts as a caramel-corn substitute.  But this week my curiosity overpowered my laziness.  I had to know if the recipe would turn out as amazing as it looked, so I dove in.  Here’s a sneak peek at success:

But it wasn’t just my success.  I had a lot of help from Hubby.  I’m not sure how well things would have gone without him.  To give you an idea of how committed he was, he watched a two-part Alton Brown video that describes the popcorn-popping process in exhaustive detail.  Seriously; I was bored before Alton ever got into the kitchen.  But my better half, in yet another display of the patience that makes him such a wonderful husband, sat through it all and emerged wiser.  That’s why I let him pop the kernels all by himself.  (But I had him use the wok instead of my one stainless steel mixing bowl on the stovetop, as A.B. suggested.  Some things just aren’t worth the risk.)

You can tell we’re amateurs because we threw in a cup of raw kernels and–wowza!–look what we got in return!  A wok full of popcorn!  Good thing we didn’t make a “big batch.”  At least now we know.  I think in this photo he’s marveling at his handiwork, or maybe at the sheer volume of snack food before him.

He emerged from his reverie and got to salting.  He used kosher salt, which I’m sure made Alton proud.

Next we moved to the stove and took turns stirring this pot of caramel as it darkened and saturated the room(s) with its fragrance.  Until I burned a cookie sheet later, the whole place was spectacularly scented.

I make caramel creme brulee sometimes so I was prepared, but if you’re unfamiliar with caramel, please know that when you add liquid it goes slightly berserk.  It hisses and steams and seems angry with you, but whisk everything together quickly and it will be fine.  To the stew of brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup, we added vanilla, baking soda, and salt.  Then each of us took half the popcorn and half the caramel and tried to combine them as fast as possible in our largest mixing bowls.  This is the same way we divide and conquer when we make puppy chow.  Which, come to think of it, we haven’t done in a while….  Probably because we know we’ll just scarf it all down in two days.  I wish that were an exaggeration.

Anyway, due to the all-hands-on-deck and time-sensitive nature of the caramel-coating process, there are no photos of that step.  But imagine two people clutching bowls and frantically trying to spread goo around crunchy bits.  That’s about all there was to it.  The last step was to spread the popcorn on a baking sheet and slowly finish the candying process.  We had to remove the sheet and rearrange the popcorn a few times.  Then it became this:

And we ate it all.  In two days.  Still not exaggerating.*

*Actually I did share some with my co-workers.  But that’s just me pretending to be polite.  We ate most of it.

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