Not Your Grandma’s Caramel Corn

I am unabashedly in love with popcorn. It’s pretty much a perfect food. It’s sorta plain on its own so it can be flavored like anything. It’s always crunchy. It’s easy to make. It’s easy to make totally fattening with loads of butter, or it’s easy to make very healthy with just a little olive oil.

I also am pretty sure that gingersnaps are another perfect food. They’re spicy and sweet, chewy and crispy. They’re all pretty and crackly, and the flavor is very complex. They’re probably my favorite cookie.

So what happens if you get a totally genius idea. To set gingersnaps and popcorn up on a blind date?

Well, if you add a bottle of champagne, like I did, then they have a love child that is pretty much the most perfectest food in existence. At least, this week.

And then if you have leftover popcorn from making that not-too-big-there’s-no-such-thing batch of caramel corn, you make something that is even better. Because you have the ingredients, and a buddy who is willing to get a little crazy with them. You know, the buddy whose idea it was to add rosemary and maple syrup to her caramel corn, because she’s also a genius.

It will also be spicy and sweet, and sorta floral too. That’s the cardamom talking. But when you taste the chipotle, then you know you have a winner.

The chipotle is like a ninja.

You can put in all in bags if you want, but chances are it won’t last long enough to get stale. Consider that your warning.

If you have a stash of popcorn kernels and some brown sugar and butter, you too can make a delicious snack that will make your house smell good until the next day. 

Variations on Caramel Corn
makes about 8 quarts

Old Fashioned:

8 or so quarts air or oil popped popcorn, plain
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 250ºF. Bring the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt to a boil while stirring. Once it’s really going, let it boil undisturbed for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well (careful, it might foam up) and pour over popcorn. Coat completely and spread over sheet pans. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool, break up any big chunks, and devour store in an airtight container.

Gingersnap Caramel Corn:

Replace the corn syrup with blackstrap molasses.
Replace light brown sugar with dark brown.
With the baking soda, add the following:
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Omit vanilla.
For extra ginger kick, add a cup of finely diced candied ginger to the caramel just before pouring over the popcorn.

Cardamom Chipotle Caramel Corn:

Follow the recipe for Old Fashioned, but add 1 (heaping) tsp cardamom and 3/4 tsp chipotle when you add the baking soda.

Rosemary Maple Caramel Corn:

Replace the corn syrup with grade B maple syrup.
When combining the popcorn and caramel, add about 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary as you stir, or more to taste.
Omit vanilla.

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