Thursday, December 15, 2011

Auntie Knows Best - Butterscotch "Caramel" Corn

Caramel corn...   The mere mention of it causes me to swoon.  I love caramel corn in all of it's "sincarnations".  I can remember being in the 4-H barn at the Multnomah county fair (yes, I was in 4-H) laying on a bale of straw with a stomach ache because I had consumed massive quantities of the stuff out on the midway.   It never stopped me though, I was right back out there the next day, eating my fill of the most decadent of all popcorn's manifestations. 

As a result of this somewhat sordid past with Caramel corn, I have developed certain likes and dislikes when it comes to "dressing" popped corn with candy syrup.  I prefer that the corn be lightly coated.  Not all gloppy and toffee like, with a bit of popped corn here and there.  And I like a little salt with my syrup to cut the sweetness.  This is why Kettle Corn is one of my top 3.

Another thing I dislike immensely is nuts in my caramel corn.  I know, I know... I like nuts in everything, just not in caramel corn.  Cracker Jack is out.

But my biggest dislike is when the caramel syrup is WAY too dark, and there is a bitterness to it.  Not festive at all.  So I tend to like the lighter caramels.

Which brings me to my most favorite Caramel Corn in the world, aside from the awesome stuff at that little shop in Lloyd Center that has been there since my parents were little, my Auntie Patsy's Butterscotch Caramel Corn.  It's absolutely perfect and delicious every single time.  The only problem is that it's dangerous... You see, it's so easy to make, that you will be making and eating it ALL the time.   :)

Why do I call it Butterscotch Caramel corn?  Well, it starts out as a Butterscotch sauce (Brown Sugar and Butter, but no Scotch).  Unlike the sauce I use for Poached Pears though, this is cooked to the Hard ball stage.  At which point you do a little "Cinder Toffee" magic to lighten the mixture before folding the sauce into the popcorn.  Most "Caramel" corn starts with granulated sugar that is then cooked to the "caramel" stage before being poured over the popped corn.  This can lead to overly dark caramel and that bitter flavor, as well as a slightly burnt smell, that I don't like.  It also does weird things to the popped corn when you pour 310 degree syrup over it.  The nice 255 degree syrup is much kinder to your Orville Reddenbacher, leaving the popped corn nice and fluffy without a secondary "cooked" flavor or shriveling it up due to heat.

The coolest part though, is that it is finished in the oven. I mean, honestly, what could possibly be easier? (this is why it's dangerous)

What you end up with is a delicately crisp Popcorn with a mere sheen of crunchy butterscotch caramel deliciousness coating the outside.   It's just Pure Heaven!

Auntie Patsy's Butterscotch Caramel Corn

7 quarts (6.5 oz) (185g) Popped Popcorn  (1 quart of popped corn weighs about .9 oz)
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Cream of Tarter
1 cup (8 oz) (226g) Unsalted Butter
1 cup (7.1 oz) (200g) Brown Sugar, packed
1 cup (7.2 oz) (205g) Dark Brown Sugar, packed (Dark Brown weighs a little more)
1/2 cup (4 oz) (118 ml) Orange Blossom Honey (by weight, that is 6 oz or 170g)

Pop all of the popcorn, filling a large bowl, and set aside.

(I "pop" each batch into a smaller bowl so I can keep the old maids to a minimum)

Preheat the oven to 200 F (94 C) degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk Baking Soda, Salt and Cream of Tarter together, set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the Butter.

Once melted, add the Sugars and the Honey.

Bring to a boil over medium heat.

Continue boiling for about 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 255 F (124 C) degrees (just shy of hard ball)

Remove from the heat and stir in the Baking Soda mixture.

The syrup will get all foamy and pale as the CO2 is released. (this lightens the syrup, making it easier to pour, and mix with the popcorn)

Pour the syrup over the popcorn.

Gently fold the syrup over the popped corn with a large wooden spoon to coat evenly. 

Spread the caramel corn out on a couple of parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour, swapping the position of the baking sheets at 30 minutes.

Let cool on the counter for 20 minutes to firm up into a slab o' Caramel Corn.

Simply break apart and enjoy!

mmmmmm  a chunk of butterscotchy caramel deliciousness!  If you will excuse me now, I have an appointment with a rather large piece and a cup of coffee.  :) 



DutchBakerGirl said...

This looks awesome. I'm taking some of your advice and boiling my mixture longer with my next batch of caramel last batch was too soft. While tasty, it stuck to the teeth. :)

Patti T. said...

That definitely looks delicious! I wish I had my mothers recipe, hers had cream in it. Maybe I could do a search someday and find one like hers. Yours does look extremely good, and easy.