A little air-popped popcorn never did anyone any harm, right? It strikes me that it’s a great snack, and given that it’s diet time around here, it’s a no-brainer. Though probably not this popcorn. These little anti-diet morsels of crunchy toffee goodness are turning into something of an addiction, with tweaks to the different source recipes abounding. Peanuts, no nuts, salted, flavoured caramel… I’m not convinced about bacon, but perhaps…
I use microwave popcorn. Never said I wasn’t trashy. The quantities below (the molasses contribution comes from the new Baked book – it makes for a smokier flavour than other versions I’ve tried but I also tried Orangette‘s recipe and really liked it) are enough to cover two bags of popcorn but I think using even more popcorn would be better as it’s quite dense, sticky stuff when you pour it over. Half-coated pieces of this recipe would probably work just as well, or better.
Make sure you have the ingredients weighed out, the unpopped kernels discarded, and a sugar thermometer ready before you even think of showing the butter to the pan. The baking powder causes the mixture to fizz magnificently so make sure it’s a big enough saucepan to accommodate.
- Microwave popcorn – 2-3 bags (depending on your hunger levels and how coated you want it to be) or similar yield from kernels
- 225g unsalted butter
- 400g brown sugar
- 150ml light corn syrup*
- 2 tbsp unsulphured molasses
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 100g salted jumbo peanuts, chopped
- Pop the corn, preheat the oven to the lowest temp, 130C/250G/Gas Mark 1. Lay the popcorn out in a non stick roasting pan.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the salt, sugar, corn syrup and molasses
- Bring up to ‘Soft Ball’ stage on the candy thermometer
- Remove from the heat and add the salt, baking powder and vanilla extract (and watch it go ‘whoompf’)
- Pour over the popcorn, stir around for coverage. Scatter the chopped nuts – and maybe some sea salt – and put in the oven.
- Bake for 35 mins, removing it halfway through to stir and redistribute the caramel.
I’d like to try this with more vanilla/omitting the nuts and using orange essence instead of vanilla/with caramel and cracked pepper. I see a lot more of this in my future…and don’t be tempted to omit the oven stage. The slow melt allows you to get much better coverage – and should you have the restraint of a jockey making weight, it keeps well in an airtight tin. Apparently.
*you can get this online or in Selfridges Food Hall in London