So, one of my first friends out here in Colorado had a personal emergency and is going to be driving back to her hometown this week. For her, that’s a 21 hour drive, and having just recently made that drive moving out here from Virginia, I figured I’d do anything I can to make the trip a little easier.
Naturally, I figured I’d make a snack, something to give a burst of energy on those long roads (especially the ones in Kansas). My criteria? It needed to be sweet, easy to munch on, and I needed to have the ingredients on hand.
I figured caramel pop corn would be the perfect snack, but I wanted it to be a little more robust than traditional caramel corn. To be fair and honest, this recipe was the inspiration for my version.
I made a lot of pop corn, some for my friend’s trip, some for my store, and some for The Boy and I (which, subsequently didn’t last the night).
This is a very simple recipe, and it’s packed with flavor, but the cinnamon and vanilla can both be, “to taste”, so feel free to ignore the amount I added if you’d like to make it your own.
Enough stalling, here’s the recipe!
Cinnamon Vanilla Caramel Pop Corn
2 sticks of butter (yep, TWO)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
3 tsp. vanilla extract*
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
6-8 oz air popped pop corn (approximately 1 cup uncooked kernels)**
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
1. Pop your corn, remove any unpopped kernels, and set it aside in a large bowl. I suggest greasing the bowl with cooking spray or shortening as this will prevent the caramel from sticking. Grease or spray every item that will touch the caramel. That’s a pro-tip for you.
2. In a large non-stick skillet or sauce pan, melt the butter on medium low. Add the sugars, cinnamon, and honey to the pot, and stir to combine. Turn the mixture up to medium – it will start to boil. Once this happens, you need to be stirring constantly to ensure the sugars don’t burn. Let the mixture simmer for 4-6 minutes until it is thick and smooth.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the vanilla and baking powder. This will create an awesomely violent reaction, but just keep stirring through it until it calms down.
4. Pour the caramel over the corn and stir to combine. This step is easiest to do if you do it in batches – I did 3. Don’t feel that you need to use all of the caramel, put a light coating over the pop corn, too much and it won’t get crunchy. If you want to make something chewy, like caramel popcorn balls, stop here, use all the caramel, and shape the popcorn.
5. Split the pop corn onto two baking trays. Another pro-tip: cover those bad boys in tin foil so they are easier to clean.
6. Bake the tray in 10 minute intervals, stirring in between. I did 4 rounds per batch, but you may need more or less. Let the pop corn cool for at least 5 minutes, if it turns nice an crunchy, it’s done, if it stays kinda chewy, put it back in for another round.
7. Once the popcorn has cooled, you’ll likely need to break it up again because it will stick together. You can serve it now, or keep it for 1-2 weeks in an air tight container or zip lock.
*I recommend using pure vanilla extract, it will give you a hint of depth from the alcohol in it.
** If you want to use microwave popcorn, I suggest Orville Redenbacher’s Organic Simply Salted because it will compliment the caramel the best. Also, it is by far the most superior pop corn.
This stuff is seriously amazing. The Boy and I already ate our batch.