Crunchy/Spicy Caramel Corn

November 28, 2010

And just like that, the holidays have arrived. And so has the time for some of my favorite, most anticipated and coveted recipes to emerge.

This particular treat has been in the making for a couple of years now; last year en route to Whistler for Christmas skiing, we decided that the caramel was too crunchy. This year, I prepared a batch in time to decide that the caramel was to our liking, the popcorn-to-caramel ratio was dead on, and to enjoy them both on Thanksgiving AND the next day as we road tripped to Montana to ski again.

I like to use pistachios and cashews here, but use what you have on hand. The recipe makes enough to fill a hearty bowl to set out for guests, with enough to stuff in ski packs later. Lastly, err on the side of the early bird if you are new to caramel; if you undercook the caramel, the worst-case result is little pools of caramel between kernels as the caramel corn cools. If you burn the caramel, you win nothing. -xo L

Crunchy/Spicy Caramel Corn
  1. 4 oz nuts, (I like pistachios, pecans and cashews) toasted
  2. 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  3. 1/3 cup popcorn, unpopped
  4. 1/4 cup water
  5. 1 cup organic sugar
  6. 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  7. 4 Tbs honey
  8. 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  9. 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  10. 1 tsp nutmeg
  11. 1/4 tsp cloves
  12. 1/2 tsp cardamom
  13. 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. In the bottom of a heavy skillet or Dutch oven with a lid, warm the oil and add a couple of kernels of the popcorn. Once the kernels start popping, immediately add in the rest of the popcorn, cover and pop completely, shaking the pot every once in a while to be sure that all the kernels get their attention on the heat!
  2. Set the popped corn aside.
  3. Lay a Silpat out on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  4. In a deep pot, at least 12 inches wide (I like to use a wok) combine the water, sugar, honey, vanilla pod, and spices. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush down the sides of the pan to remove any undissolved sugar granules. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, tilting and swirling the pan, until the mixture just begins to smoke and is a deep caramel color, 4 to 5 minutes more. You'll know the caramel is done when you dip the end of a rubber spatula in to the caramel and pull it out again, the caramel doesn't drip off easily. Also, a little ball of caramel dropped in ice water should be malleable, not hard.
  5. Stir in the nuts and popcorn, turning constantly to coat. Be careful not to burn. When the caramel is evenly coating the popcorn, quickly remove from heat and spread out on the Silpat to cool, spreading out the large chunks that might develop. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Cool completely, store in an airtight container for up to three days and ENJOY!

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