Sweet and Spicy Caramel Corn

Crunchy and addictive, my spiced caramel corn is Cracker Jack 2.0. I start with freshly popped corn (on the stove, don’t cheat!) and toss it all together with velvety caramel. The secret? A kick of cayenne and chili powder – oh yeah baby! A quick trip to the oven crunches everything up nicely, leaving you with toffee-like bits (don’t tell my dentist).

Using fresh popcorn by way of the stove top or air popper allows you to control the amount of salt and yields more consistent kernels.

Try adding your favorite nut to the mix – chopped toasted pecans or hazelnuts would be redonkulous. This also makes a nice snack paired with a hearty winter ale. I’m partial to the one from Brooklyn Brewery.

Ingredients

2 Tbs canola oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp chili powder
a few pinches cayenne

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 F.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot every few seconds until all the kernels are popped (or you can skip the oil and pop the popcorn in an air popper).
Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine the sugar, salt, butter and water in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally until the mixture is golden brown. While it’s boiling, spray two spatulas or wooden spoons and a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

When the caramel is golden brown, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the chili powder, baking soda, and cayenne (if using), and toss it with the popped popcorn so the kernels are evenly coated, then spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove and let cool. Break up everything with your hands or a large wooden spoon.

Recipes adapted from The Craft of Baking

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