Caramel Corn Redux

Read this first. It’s the backstory. You must know the backstory to proceed further.

Are we caught-up? Good.

As you now know, I’m a caramel corn flunky. After that last post, I decided to never try it again. Until last night. Last night I decided to try it again. I decided to incorporate all of your advice and try it again.

So first I went for firm corn. No microwave bag, this time. This time I popped my own kernals in a pot:

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Firm corn: check.

Next, I pulled out Nancy Silverton’s recipe again. It sounded too good not to try twice. This time I thought I’d follow it to a T. (Tee? Tea? Where did that expression come from, anyway?) So I toasted 1 cup of hazelnuts which smelled marvelous:

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Then I purchased a vanilla bean and cardamom to add to the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves I already had. It all went in the pot:

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And then the caramelizing began. I remembered Jeremy’s advice: 330 degrees is the target temp. Nancy doesn’t give you a target temp. She just says cook for 4-5 minutes until it’s a dark caramel color. That doesn’t really help when the liquid is concealed by all those spices. So I waited for the temp to rise. I swirled, I tilted. It never got above 280 but it began smoking. That’s the other sign, says Nancy. When it smokes, add the popcorn and the hazelnuts.

I did.

Did they deflate? No. So I stirred. This was tricky–popcorn came flying out. The bottom popcorn was getting way coated and the stuff at the top was all dry. I crunched many kernals in the process. She says wait til the caramel becomes a deep mahagony color. But it began to smell like burning so I poured it out on my silpat:

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Then I waited. Ok, I didn’t wait–I took a bite and burned my mouth.

Then I really waited. When I came back I was happy to see that it looked very good. I tasted it.

OK, not perfect—no. But better. Much better. Not as chalky, but not perfect caramel corn yet. Good enough, though, that I brought it to school today and everyone devoured it. Even the head of the department. “Mmmmm,” he said.

This flunky may be valedictorian yet.

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