The contrasting flavors of sweet caramel and salty popcorn combine to make a timeless treat that's easy to make, but difficult to put down. Not only can you use caramel sauce on popcorn, it serves as a crucial element of homemade caramel corn, which entails a two-step process of making the sauce and baking or cooling the popcorn. This quick snack works just as well at kids' parties and family holidays as it does at grown-up movie night.
Before you can use caramel sauce on popcorn, you have to make said sauce. For a basic homemade caramel sauce, combine a cup or so of sugar with about 1/3 the amount of chopped butter, a few spoonfuls of honey and an optional dash of vanilla. Heat on medium until the mixture reaches a boil, stirring regularly. Continue boiling without stirring until your sauce achieves a thick consistency and and light golden brown color. When you remove the caramel from the heat, quickly whisk in bit of baking soda and allow the sauce to foam up just as you pour it over the popcorn.
Cool Down or Heat Up
As your caramel sauce heats up, line a sheet pan with baking paper or foil and pop your plain, unbuttered popcorn. In a large mixing bowl, pour the sauce over the popped corn and stir or toss until the corn is evenly coated. Spread the popcorn out on the pan in clumps or as individual pieces and allow it to cool and harden completely before serving. For crunchier corn, bake at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 or 30 minutes, or until the snack has a dry texture and crispy crunch. You can break up the hardened clumps of caramel corn after the sauce has solidified.
Sweeten the Deal
For a classic sweet and salty flavor, sprinkle sea salt on the caramel popcorn right when it comes out of the oven. To add a little more crunch to the dish, add finely chopped pecans to your caramel sauce. A chocolate sauce drizzle packs even more sweet flavor, while mixing hot sauce or curry powder into your caramel makes for a distinctly contrasting spicy-sweet combo.
You can also pair store-bought caramel sauce with popcorn; simply heat and drizzle it on to popped corn. This method works best with particularly crunchy corn, such as homemade kettle corn, which you can make by popping the kernels in vegetable oil with added sugar and then sprinkling the finished product with salt. Warm caramel sauce also makes a fun and tasty dip for both regular and kettle-style popcorn.
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