Brown Bag Caramel Popcorn

Brown Bag Caramel PopcornI couldn’t believe this recipe would work, but I was in a time crunch, so it was worth a try. Amazingly, it works! And it’s delicious! I first made it for my Lucy to take for a class treat, but I have since made it several times, including for 4th of July firework shows. It takes a little less than half an hour, start to finish, and is really as delicious as other, more time-intensive, versions.  This recipe is adapted from AllRecipes.com, but I’ve changed it here to reflect many of the great suggestions from the readers, as well as eliminate the margarine. 

Brown Bag Caramel Popcorn

8 quarts popped popcorn
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. light corn syrup (honey can also work)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda

Spray the inside of a large (grocery-sized) brown bag with cooking spray. Place the popped popcorn into the bag. Set aside.

In a 2 quart casserole dish, or other heat-proof glass dish, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla.

Now to the potentially tricky part. The original directions say to heat for 3 minutes in the microwave, then take out and stir until well blended. Return to the microwave, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave, and then stir in the baking soda, but I thought it would burn in my microwave (as other cooks had noted it did in their microwave), so I adapted it to microwaving it first for 90 seconds on high, then stirring it to make sure it’s completely combined, then I microwaved it for another 90 seconds on high, and then added the baking soda. I would recommend going with the lower time amount first, because you can always cook it longer, if needed.

Pour syrup over the popcorn in the bag. Roll down the top once or twice to close the bag, and shake to coat the corn. Place bag into the microwave, and cook for 1 minute and 10 seconds (I only did 1 minute). Remove, shake, flip the bag over, and return it to the microwave. Cook for another 1 minute and 10 seconds (again, I just did 1 minute). Dump the popcorn out onto waxed paper, and let cool until coating is set. Store in an airtight container.

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Basic Gooey Caramel (for filling candy)

Carrot Caramel GoodI checked out a beautiful book from the library called Hand-crafted Candy Bars. I don’t know that I will ever do a full-on candy bar, like the authors do so well, but I used the basic caramel for my Easter chocolate, and really loved how gooey and soft it is. So, I’m keeping this one. Also, the caramel had hardened so much after I put it over the ice and then let it rest 2 minutes, that next time, I don’t think I will let it rest, like the recipe advises. Even so, reheating it over the stove for a bit while mixing it worked fine, and I used it without letting it refrigerate.

Basic-Batch Caramel

3 c. ice
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 T. corn syrup
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. butter
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt

  1. Put the ice in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir the mixture until it resembles wet beach sand. Use a moist paper towel to wipe out any sugar that clings to the inside of the pan. (This keeps the crystals from getting into your syrup, which will make it gritty rather than smooth.) Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil without stirring. Add the corn syrup and cook for about 8 minutes, or until it first browns around the edges and then turns entirely the color of honey. When the mixture reaches about 310F on a candy thermometer, carefully place the pan in the bowl of ice for a few seconds (really, just a few! maybe 2 seconds is enough) to stop the caramel from cooking.
  3. Remove the caramel from the ice but let it cool for another 2 minutes, then add the cream, butter, vanilla, and salt, and stir with a wooden spoon. (Be careful! The still-hot syrup sizzles!) If some of the caramel has hardened on the bottom of the pan, return the pan to the stove and melt the bits into the mixture over low heat. Let the sauce cool a little more, then refrigerate for about 1 hour before using in candy-bar production.
  4. Store in a covered bowl or an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for 2 months.