Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Maple Pecan Caramel Corn

Maple Pecan Caramel Corn

Perfect for fall, this tasty treat doesn't come from a store full of salt, preservatives, etc, but from your own kitchen. You don't need anything special to make it, except for a good deep saucepan, a large metal bowl (glass will crack) or roasting pan, and a candy thermometer. A few tips before you start:

1. Be organized. Read the recipe carefully and have all your ingredients set out ready to go before you begin cooking the caramel because once you get going, you must stand and stir it constantly-it's not a fix and forget kind of recipe.

2. Kids can't help with this one. As I found out the hard way, hot caramel is dangerous.

3. Have a bowl of ice water nearby just in case you get caramel on yourself.

On to the recipe!
Adapted from Canadian Living

10 cups of plain popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves (I used 1 cup pecans, 1/2 cup cashews)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp maple extract

First, to pop the popcorn I have a super easy method; get a brown lunch bag, put in about 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels, and microwave on high for about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. This makes the best popcorn without any oil! Just let it pop away until the popping sounds are about 2-3 seconds apart, then stop the microwave. Don't let it burn.

Grease a large metal mixing bowl (or a roasting pan-something that can withstand lots of heat) with butter. This keeps the caramel from sticking to it. Dump in the popcorn and the nuts. Set aside.

Measure the butter, sugar, maple syrup, salt and corn syrup into a large, deep saucepan. Over medium low to medium heat, bring to a boil while you stir. At this point, do NOT leave the caramel. You have to stand and stir it constantly so it doesn't burn. Have a candy thermometer handy so you can keep track of the temperature. Boil and stir, stir, stir (careful! It's hot!) until the candy reaches just under 300F, and then remove the pot from the heat. The candy will keep boiling and continue to get hotter, so don't wait until it's right at 300 F. Stir in the maple extract. It will boil up, but stir it in well. Get a wooden spoon handy.

Now at this point, you gotta be FAST. Pour the caramel over the popcorn, stirring it to coat. The caramel is going to start thickening up, and so you want to get as much as you can out of the pot and onto the popcorn to coat it, without getting any on yourself. This is where I burned myself, and I won't lie-it hurts like hell.

Once you have the caramel all over your popcorn and nuts, you've stirred it all up and it's coated, dump the hot caramel/nut mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper to let it cool. When it's cool, break into chunks and store in an airtight container and store for up to 1 week.

Makes 10 cups

*Variation: Try adding in different kinds of nuts like peanuts, pistachios, almonds, etc.
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