Homemade caramel corn came into my life recently when Linda (good buddy and ex-roommate) made me some for a surprise. I think she did this because she felt bad, thanks to the time she refused to make me cinnamon sugar biscotti and then I blogged about it. Nagging works! Every time I go to the movies, which is a normal amount, I say aloud “I wish that instead of stupid, gross, old, fake-chemical-butter popcorn, they had homemade caramel corn like at the Arclight in Los Angeles.”
The Arclight is a very fancy movie theater in LA, with a location in West Hollywood, which, if you attend a showing of anything on a Friday or a Saturday night, you’re more or less guaranteed to see someone famous. The fun in that, really, is that mostly they are only kind of famous, such as that guy who played Billy in 6 Feet Under and was also in Clueless, or that girl from that movie where she played a cheerleader who got pregnant and then they robbed banks. The game is trying to figure out exactly which Law and Order it was when that M list celebrity, eating Sno-caps THIS VERY MINUTE, that time they got murdered in an alley next to a kebab joint. Or you could get a 20 pointer, like I did once, and see Natalie Portman and Devendra Banhart (they were dating then? Celebrities are weird), which looked exactly like if a very pretty, very normal girl wearing flip flops and shorts went around arm-in-arm with Jesus, if Jesus sometimes wears an afghan as a shirt and then accessorizes with 43 necklaces and leather sandals. The point is, they sell pints of homemade caramel corn, access to which makes the $42 it costs for a movie ticket sort of worth it.
All that is why I had to make caramel corn for the blog. So that your ass will be as fat as mine when you can’t stop eating it either. Just imagine that butter is good for you. Or that there’s no butter in this at all. Or that you don’t care. I guess it turns out that Kim Kardashian has a purpose on this earth after all, because fat asses are in style!
This recipe is pretty easy, provided you know how to cook popcorn on a stovetop (I had to Google it) and have a candy thermometer.
10-12 cups popped popcorn (I bought plain kernels and made them on the stovetop, because I didn’t want any gnarly stuff that most microwave popcorn has in it. Get our your dutch oven or stock pot, heat 3 tbsp of vegetable oil on medium heat until shimmering. Toss three kernels into the oil and when all three have popped, pour in all the kernels you want to make and put the top on the pot. When the pops are a few seconds apart, shake the dutch oven and pour into a bowl.)
1/2 cup of butter, or 1 stick
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
Method: Turn on the oven to 250 degrees, and pour all the popped popcorn into a deep roasting pan. Put the pan in the hot oven while you make the caramel. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, with a candy thermometer clipped to the side, melt the butter. When the butter is melted, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, water and salt.
Whisk constantly until the mixture bubbles and reaches 250 degrees. This takes maybe 15-20 minutes. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not that fun. Bring a magazine.
When it reaches 250 degrees, remove from the heat, mix in the baking soda and vanilla and whisk some more, the mixture will bubble up, turn creamy and lighter brown.
Pour the caramel all over the popcorn in the roasting pan, mixing well and sprinkling liberally with sea salt.
Bake the caramel corn in the oven, on 250 degrees, for 45 minutes, stirring it all around every 15 minutes.
Keep the caramel corn in an airtight container, probably in a safe to which you don’t know the combination.