Caramel Coated Popcorn

Growing up in Iowa, corn was everywhere. Though sweet corn is beloved by all, it is only available in the summertime. For my family, to get a year round corn fix, we ate popcorn.

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Beautiful creamy colors from multi-colored popcorn kernels

Laying in my bed, I’d hear the shuffle of feet overhead with the whirl of the air popper spitting out hot popped corn. The microwave beeped and the mixing bowl clanked against the counter as the butter knife folded the butter into the hot popcorn. It was my parents’ reward for a job well done. How I loved the smell of the nightly popcorn!  As the years went by, mom and dad’s evening ritual became a family affair. The kernels squeaked when pressed against my teeth as I watched Barbara Walters on 20/20.

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For my wedding, I received my very own air popper. Seventeen years later and it’s still good as new. The popcorn maker and the bag of yellow kernels are brought out after the children have been tucked into bed. We attentively pop the corn, melt the butter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt before settling the bowl in between our laps on the couch. It’s earthy aroma grounds me and I feel at home.The perfect reward for a job well done.

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Though I’ve eaten popcorn most of my life, I didn’t know much about it until recently. Did you know that popcorn is a special corn plant that is grown for just this purpose? Mostly grown in the Midwest, it is harvested and dried until the kernels reach the perfect level of hydration. Different varieties abound and each offers a slightly different texture and appearance. The multi colored variety, bought in the grocery store’s bulk bin, produced smaller, creamy colored and slightly sweeter popped corn.

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As the summer turns to fall, I find myself craving a popcorn treat to harold in the new season. As opposed to caramel corn or popcorn balls, This caramel coated popcorn is incredibly quick and easy. Unlike most caramel corn recipes, this one doesn’t require an hour of stirring in the oven. Unlike, popcorn balls, these have a richer flavor and no burnt fingers! The caramel coats the popcorn and creates a crisp shell.

Caramel Coated Popcorn

Though corn syrup seems the perfect accompaniment to caramel corn, I found that Lyle’s Golden Syrup imparted a fuller flavor to this recipe, plus I love the tin it came in. When using a candy thermometer, be sure to read the temperature when the tip is not touching the bottom of the pan. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Pop corn with whatever method you like best. Pick out and discard all unpopped kernels and pour into large bowl. In a small saucepan, add butter, syrup, water and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil on medium high. Turn down to medium low and clip a candy thermometer to the side. The mixture should stay at a boil. Turn the oven up slightly if not. Cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 300℉, about 15 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in baking soda and salt. The mixture will foam and bubble. Quickly pour over popcorn and stir with a wooden spoon. The caramel hardens quickly so no daudiling. Pour into greased sheet pan. Let cool slightly and then separate into smaller chunks as desired. Let cool. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days.

Bittersweet Almond Toffee

My husband and I had our 16th (!!!)  wedding anniversary this month and I have been thinking about how much has happened since that day. All the decisions that we have made to create this life that we are living right now. Each year builds on the last. I truly feel I comprehend the depth of the words of our vows. We have been through better and worse, richer and poorer, and sickness and health and we keep coming back to the table day after day and decide once again to choose each other.

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This toffee was one of the first recipes I remember making that wasn’t made because of our childhood experiences. I don’t remember eating toffee as a child and it wasn’t a recipe passed down from any family member. After impatiently waiting for it to cool, I snapped off a couple pieces and we each took a bite. Our taste buds lit up in satisfaction and I that this too we agreed on and would bring with us through the years.

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Halloween is the quintessential candy holiday and mine is going to include one of my favorite homemade version. I love the uneven shards of chocolate covered caramel. Like most candies, the ingredients are simple and the steps are pretty fail proof if you have a trusty candy thermometer.

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Ready to take a crack at it? Maybe it will become a part of your family as well.

Bittersweet Almond Toffee

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden – which happens to be the first cookbook I received for our wedding. Correctly reading the thermometer is the most important step in making successful toffee. Before starting the ingredients to simmer, take a good look at your thermometer and determine which line is 290 degrees. This will help you move confidently through the steps without wasting precious time deciphering the temp. Also, make sure that the bulb of the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan as this will give a false reading. As the mixture thickens you may have to spoon the mixture over the bulb to get an accurate reading.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 oz (1 baking bar) bittersweet chocolate
  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (such as Maldon)

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread 1/2 cup toasted almonds on the foil. Set aside. Combine butter, sugar, fine sea salt, water and corn syrup in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to mix the ingredients as they melt. Once the mixture boils, turn down to medium and clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan. As the mixture simmers, chop the chocolate bar and set aside. Every couple minutes give the pan a good stir with a wooden spoon.

Once the mixture starts to thicken, stir more often and keep an eye on the thermometer. It can quickly go from done to scorched. You can tell it is getting close when it is starting to get some color and smells more of caramel. Yum! Once the the thermometer hits 290 degrees, evenly pour the candy over the almonds. Use a spatula to get everything out of the pan and to smooth the candy if needed. Let cool until set (about 5 minutes).

Next, sprinkle the chocolate over the candy and let melt for a minute or two. Use the spatula to spread the chocolate completely over the caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining almonds and flaky sea salt. Place baking sheet in refrigerator to firm up the chocolate. Once cool, break into pieces and store in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep for a long time.