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Friday, October 4, 2013

Caramel Corn with Peanuts (Homemade Cracker Jack)

caramel popcorn
Caramel Corn with Peanuts 
 This recipe was the result of Ryan's last minute food day at work, which was themed "ballpark favorites" or something goofy like that. I'm telling you, we work for the same company but my group/floor/building do not have NEARLY as many food days as his and they are definitely never themed!
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My mind immediately went to caramel corn, although come to think of it I'm not sure I can ever recall seeing caramel corn at a sporting event. That's pregnancy brain for you! Popcorn, yes, but I'm not sure about caramel corn...not that I think anyone minded! This is one of those desserts that you probably already have most things on hand, especially if, like us, you're in the habit of popping your own popcorn. 
caramel corn
I know people are wary of making their own caramel, but if you use a candy thermometer, this one is hard to screw up! Go for temperature and not time here. I'm pretty sure mine took longer than expected but I just waited for the temperature to rise appropriately. Once the caramel is poured over the popcorn, you can add peanuts if you wish to get more of a Homemade Cracker Jack feel, or leave it plain. The mixture then gets baked for about an hour and once its cooled you have yourself warm, fresh caramel corn that beats anything you'll find in a box or at a sporting event (ha!).

One Year Ago: Apple Cinnamon Sticks & Bacon Turkey Burgers with Savory Apple Compote
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chile Nuts & Apple Raisin Bars 
Three Years Ago: Shredded Beef Sandwiches & Honey Wheat Sandwich Buns
Four Years Ago: Whole Grain Waffles & Homemade Sushi (Maki)

Caramel Corn with Peanuts (Homemade Cracker Jack)
slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

-20 cups freshly popped popcorn (about 3/4 cup kernels)
-2 cups light brown sugar
-1/3 cup light corn syrup
-12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 tsp salt
-4 tsp vanilla extract
-1 tsp baking soda
-2 cups lightly salted peanuts

1. Preheat the oven to 250F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Transfer the popped popcorn to a large bowl and set aside.
3. Whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 250F on a candy thermometer (about 10-15 minutes).
4. Remove mixture from heat and whisk in the vanilla and baking soda. Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. With a rubber spatula, gently mix the caramel into the popcorn until coated. Stir in the peanuts. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheets, spreading it out in an even layer.
5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn and serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.