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Caramel corn goodness

December 13, 2009

It is the Christmas season. Also known as the season of baking. This usually does not move me. In the years since I stopped eating gluten, it’s just not as much fun to bake. This does not break my heart. It has its advantages. The loss of a few pounds, the ability to focus on the more nuanced, savory side of the plate. But then along came the damn caramel corn. The stuff is like crack. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was looking through a list of new (to me) food blogs that a friend sent me – thank you, Sara – and got caught up in the beautifully written blog by Smitten Kitchen. And there I found a recipe for coffee toffee which I sort of idly thought might be nice to make. Except that I didn’t have enough butter (yesterday’s tamal party-for-one having used up most of my supply) or instant espresso powder or brown sugar.

But then when I saw the recipe on Orangette’s blog for caramel corn, well I did have most of those ingredients. And Hubby is a pretty big popcorn fan. And what else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon? Better yet, we have special popcorn in the pantry right now from our CSA share. It comes from a farm in Quebec, Tullochgorum Farm, and it’s called white lightening popcorn. The stuff is beautiful- snowy white and delicious.

So I did it. And, well, I still didn’t have brown sugar, so I used white sugar plus some molasses. And have I mentioned that I’ve never made candy before? Which is essentially what this is. Well, it’s like magic. Magic closely monitored with a thermometer. Which I dropped into the blurping, bubbling, bleeping-hot caramel just shy of the magic moment were boiling sugar turns into caramel. And then woah, people, the stuff turns to rock-hard pretty damn fast. There was some shouting, I admit, and popcorn scattering all over the kitchen; it was pretty exciting. Hubby was definitely laughing at me. This is not for the faint of heart. Or probably also not for people who substitute ingredients and don’t measure very reliably. And don’t get the stuff on your skin, no matter what. I’m here to tell you, it hurts. A lot. All in all, this is probably not the recipe for me. Or the genre for me, really.

But then we started tasting it… and this stuff is ridiculously delicious. It’s impossible to stop once you start. And now’s probably a good time to mention that I added chocolate chips during the oven phase, melting over the top of half the caramel corn. Gilding the lily, perhaps, but it was brilliant, I tell you. I guess it’s kind of a cross between that coffee toffee and the caramel corn, but, er, without the coffee. Orangette suggests that this might make a nice gift, packaged in mason jars. And I’m thinking, who is she kidding? I’m pretty sure this will be gone long before it comes anywhere near a ribbon-wrapped mason jar. Sorry folks. You’ll have to make your own.

I know this photo isn’t gorgeous, but I thought you might like to see it.
This is from the gilded-lily chocolate side.
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