This caramel corn took three tries and all of my patience this past weekend. Although I’m not one to crave caramel corn frequently, after taking a trip to the Wisconsin State Fair I was craving a a crunchy and sweet popcorn combo, which lead me to caramel corn. I am just now getting into the popping popcorn on the stove game ( I know, I’m way behind!), so it’s been popcorn all the time for my afternoon snacks. I came across a few caramel corn recipes when I was poking around for some guidelines for measurements for this recipe, but they all used corn syrup. Normally, I know corn syrup has a time and place, but ever since I had a smoking batch of boiling corn syrup in my kitchen, I’ve been kind of freaked out by it. After your kitchen smells and tastes like straight up burnt corn syrup for almost a week, you get a little turned off by the idea of using it. Instead, I first tried to sub out all the sugar in caramel corn for a date caramel. Nope, no dice. Fruit purees don’t dry out nicely (I know, DUH), although I wish it would have worked, it was time to move on. After stockpiling a few jars of syrup that we purchased on vacation up North earlier this summer, I knew I needed to try my hand at reducing the caramel down to a blend of really good maple syrup and almond milk. Thankfully, it worked! I was just getting ready to scrap the whole idea, because I had already tried one batch of maple syrup caramel, burnt it to bits and made a mixture that would be perfect for removing your finest fillings. The third time was a charm and worked beautifully!
The one thing I can say is to watch your caramel closely. It’s going to seem like the mixture is taking forever to getting to the totally-perfect-for-caramel-corn stage, but it will turn to a hard mess on you quickly if you let it go too far. I know it’s annoying to hear, but you really just have to use instinct on this one. I don’t own a candy thermometer, so I don’t have accurate measurements for the temperature the caramel should reach, but just feeling the texture of the caramel with a spoon does the trick. Also, please don’t be like me and use a metal spoon when stirring boiling hot sugary caramel, bust out that wooden spoon and go to town. Also, pleaseeee grease the pan you are going to spread out your popcorn on. I had a lapse in judgement and RIGHT after I poured this boiling caramel on my popcorn I realized I would need to pry the dried caramel corn off with a crowbar. So, don’t be like me!
P.S. A sprinkling of sea salt would just take this to the next level, just saying.
- 1 cup maple syrup (use the good stuff!)
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups popped popcorn (unsalted/no butter)
- Spread out the already popped popcorn onto a greased, rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup and almond milk, heat over medium high heat. Stir frequently until mixture is thickened, but not rock hard, which should take between 15-20 minutes. Once you reach the 15 minute mark, be sure to keep a close eye on the mixture, it could easily turn into a caramel monster! Once the caramel is still slightly watery, but thickened, pour over your popcorn and stir to combine. Make sure you work quickly, or the caramel with stiffen up. Set aside and allow to cool for a couple of hours, or until mixture has hardened. Store in a covered container for up to 3 days.