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Monday, June 20, 2011

caramel pretzel salted peanut popcorn.

Firstly, it isn't purely caramel. I added honey in there too because I ran out of corn syrup. But because its taste doesn't show up in the final product, although you can smell it while its cooking, I decided to leave the honey out of the name.

It all started with Garrett's Popcorn. I visited one of its outlets, at Resorts World Sentosa, last week and its mushroom-shaped, caramel coated crunchy popcorn has been sticking in my mind. I read recipes of popcorn before- they don't look difficult. So why not, I thought to myself, recreate a homely version of Garrett's without the exorbitant price and more freedom of choice of combinations?

Thinking about it was the easy part.

I burnt my popcorn the first two times. It wasn't the lack of oil, there was definitely enough, but rather the lack of technique. I was about to give up hope if I didn't succeed the third time but luckily, I came across this wonderful method which finally led me to sweet sweet success. I didn't have any un-popped kernels at all! Although some were burnt because I forgot to shake the wok after one time.

Here's the mind-boggling thing I found out after researching on various popcorn recipes- some called for a lot of butter, some moderate and some little, like this recipe from Baking Bites I followed eventually. I have no idea how how much or how little butter can affect a caramel chemically, so I decided to follow what I wanted taste wise.

I like caramel pure. Meaning, without cream or butter so that the true flavour of caramelization stands out. That was why I settled on Baking Bite's recipe. There is one exception, however, and that is See's Candies peanut brittle. Even though it has those dairy components that would, in my opinion, dull a caramel, I never fail to get it whenever I'm in America (or when anyone I know goes there). Either I decide on the pure brittle itself, or in a form of dark, milk or white chocolate-enthrobed squares. Or both. I remembered carrying 6 pounds worth of See's while touring around San Francisco. Quite willingly and very happily.

I got what I wanted. This popcorn is not as buttery as Garrett's but light and crisp, and is definitely worth the burned pots because of the pretzels. I ended up picking out nearly all the pretzel pieces for myself even though the popcorn was supposed to be the star of the show, or at least the bag. Sweet caramel, salty pretzels, is that the combination or what? If you're too lazy to make popcorn, just use all pretzels instead. You're not missing out on anything.

Out of the oven, every morsel was crunchy and crispy with shards of caramel but after a few hours, it started to soften a little. I guess that's the problem with my humid weather, but a re-crisp in a 350F oven restored it to its former glory.

I stored it in this huge, adorable popcorn tin I dug up from the depths of the storeroom. I think I got it when my whole family went for a movie a few years back and went on a popcorn splurge. The other packet behind? That's another flavour, and another post. I think this one is long-winded enough as it is already.

Caramel Popcorn

8-10 cups popcorn
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Optional: mini pretzels and salted peanuts 
Pop corn and let cool. If using mini pretzels, crush them into smaller pieces. Line a 10×15 pan with lightly greased foil or a Silpat. Preheat oven to 250F. Place glass bowl in oven to warm while making the caramel.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, molasses and butter; bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 250F and is at hard-ball stage. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.In the meantime, transfer popcorn to now-warm glass bowl.
Remove pan from the heat and immediately stir in salt, baking soda and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the popcorn, stirring until most of the kernels are coated. Pour mixture onto baking sheet.
Bake popcorn for 1 hour, stirring (and if necessary, spreading out) every 15-20 minutes.
Let cool and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

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