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Thursday, November 12, 2009

500 Kinds of Popcorn

My friend Shanna makes the best caramel popcorn. Whenever there is a movie night I insist she make a double batch - one for me, one for everyone else. It is soft, sticky, buttery and delectable. She gave me the recipe and I tried to make it once. I overcooked it of course but then she came over and made it with me and I think I'll do better next time - it takes a few times of practice to get it right on your own stove, she says.

Well last week we hosted a Popcorn Night for some ladies from church. Shanna made the corn, I provided the setting - I admit, my kitchen is awesome for cooking demos - all I'm missing is the mirror overhead.So below are the four kinds we tried. Sorry it's not really five hundred. Shanna made "Mom's" ahead and brought it for snacking. I made "Jello" ahead. Then with the audience she made "Shanna's" and "Coconut-Almond." Everyone ate plenty of popcorn, and we sent baggies home. Fun and yum all in one night!Tips:
* Always start with fresh air-popped corn. Check the expiration date on your jar!
* Don't ever put the full amount of popcorn in the bowl in the beginning. Start pouring the sauce and add popcorn as you need it. That way, the popcorn will be nicely coated instead of patchy.
* Don't overcook the sauce. This may take a few tries to get the feel of it right but even mistake batches are tasty.
* Always lay popcorn out on wax paper to cool so it's not a big clump.

Mom's Soft Caramel Corn
This one is Shanna's favorite because of good memories eating it growing up. But it takes the longest to make - about 40 minutes - and I find the molasses flavor strong.

2 gallons popped corn
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup cream or milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Have popcorn popped and ready. Bring brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, cream/milk, and butter to a boil. Add molasses, corn syrup and salt. Boil stirring constantly, until it forms a medium firm ball (228 to 230 degrees.) Add baking soda and stir until foamy. Pour and stir evenly over popcorn. Pour out on wax paper to cool.
Jello Popcorn
I got the recipe from Shanna's sister, and when I naturally messed up the first batch, I checked the Jello website; they were pretty close. My problem had been getting the Jello and the sugar to dissolve into the small amount of liquid. So on my second batch, the green one pictured, I tried sugar-free Jello. It meant less sugar to dissolve, but still had a bright, strong, sweet flavor due to the added sugar in the recipe.

What's so fun about Jello popcorn is you can make it any color Jello comes in! Try green and red for Christmas. How about orange, drizzled with chocolate, for Halloween? Or pink and blue for baby showers? You see where I'm going. My sister had the idea of doing orange Jello, add orange zest, and cashews or pecans. Really - improvise like crazy!

8 cups popped popcorn
1 cup nuts, optional
1/4 cup butter
3 T corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 pkg (4 serving size) any flavor Jello (sugar-free is fine, too!)

Optional - If you want it crispy, preheat oven to 300. Line large cookie sheet with silpat, foil or wax paper.

Place butter and syrup in small saucepan; cook on low heat until butter is melted. Add sugar and Jello; stir until gelatin is dissolved - about 8 minutes. Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Pour immediately over popcorn mixture and toss to coat well. If you want it soft and gooey, spread out on wax paper to cool. If you want it crispy, spread onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool, remove from pan, break into small pieces.
Shanna's Awesome Ooey Gooey Caramel Corn
Shanna calls this "Suzanne's Caramel Corn" after her sister but hello, I don't know Suzanne and Shanna is the one that makes it for me! This is my oh-so-favorite yummy yummy favorite movie snack! One time she made it for me and I saved some in a ziploc bag. I brought it in the car to church the next day and it was a heavenly snack on the way to and from church. This batch was nut-free but try it with almonds - my favorite!

12 cups popped corn
3 cups chopped nuts (especially almonds and pecans)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cook the sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally until just starting to bubble around the edges. Start timing - cook from this point, stirring, for 4 minutes - NO LONGER! Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda until foamy. Pour over popcorn and nuts (see tips above.) Pour out onto wax paper to cool. If you want it crunchy, bake 1 hour in 200 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes.

Coconut-Almond Popcorn
You already know my favorite but this popcorn was the smash of the evening. Almost everyone proclaimed it was their favorite, and with reason. It is really, really divine and some people had the idea to add almond or coconut extract with or instead of the vanilla to boost it even more. Truly, if you're going to try one popcorn from this post, try this one. Everyone will love it!

1 lb butter (4 sticks - it makes a lot!)
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 lb. chopped almonds
1/2 lb. shredded coconut
A lot of popped popcorn (the recipe that was handed out did not specify amount, but look at the silver bowl in the sink in the picture - about enough to nearly fill it)

Melt butter on low heat. Add sugar and corn syrup; cook on medium heat. Boil until butter mixes in, then boil for 1 1/2 minutes more. Add vanilla. Pour over popped corn, adding almonds and coconut and mixing. Mix well and pour out on wax paper to cool.

BONUS: Aunt Karen's Honey Popcorn
We didn't make this corn, and I've never had it, but it was included on the recipe sheet Shanna handed out, so I'm putting it out there. My candy thermometer has marked what temperature soft ball stage is; otherwise I would have no clue since I'm still new with cooking sugar. But yum, I love honey so I bet this is good.

9 qt. Popped corn
3 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups cream

Cook sugar, honey and cream to soft ball stage. Pour over popcorn. Spread onto wax paper to cool. Cook a bit longer if you want to do popcorn balls. Wrap in saran wrap to keep ball form.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

A popcorn Party? Too cool!!!

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