This is my first attempt making my very own popcorn. Though not a popcorn-mania, I do sometimes crave for it especially when the aroma of caramel sips into the nose. One thing for sure, I am not those kind that would sit in front of the telly binging on bowls and bowls of popcorn.
It all started when I was bringing my 6-year-old daughter to a home fair when out of a sudden she asked for popcorn. After much persuasion, I gladly bought a small tub and both of us ended up sitting on a bench happily munching away our popcorn, totally oblivious to what was happening around us. For the first time ever, I was acting like a six-year old fighting over popcorn with another six-year-old and yes it was in public. Anyway, it was indeed a sweet father-daughter kind of bonding moment which I can one day look back and reminisce with a smile.
Now, I realize that I am really obsessed and hooked to this junk, just finished making my fourth batch of popcorn in one week. Well, after my fourth attempt, all that I can conclude is......MAKING POPCORN IS NOT AS EASY AS IT MAY SEEM. To me, the hardest part is preventing the the popcorn from getting burnt. You sure do not want to end up standing in front of the stove picking and choosing the burnt popcorn one by one as this can really be time-wasting and will very likely drive you up the wall. Also, you sure do not want to munch on a burnt popcorn which can really be unpleasant and disturbing.
To cook the popcorn, you can either use the microwave oven or the stove (which is the conventional way). As I am using the stove, the downside to it is the kernels can get burnt pretty easily, even at the slightest few extra seconds. So, after googling, I found out this useful trick.......
Popcorn Popping Tip
- Firstly, throw in 3 kernels into the pan/pot after you have cranked up the oil (over medium-high heat)
- With the lid ajar, let the kernels sit and pop up. So, this will be the prime popping temperature for the kernels.
- Take out the three popped kernels and immediately pour in the rest of the kernels into the pan.
- Cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Wait for 30 seconds. (By doing this, you are reducing the time the kernels expose to direct heat and get burn easily.)
- Place back the pan onto the heat. Very soon, the kernels will start popping.
- Remember to give the pan a good occasional shake when the kernels are popping.
- Open the lid when the popping almost come to a complete halt. This is to let the steam out to keep the popcorn crisp.
- And finally here you are.........a bowl of white fluffy aromatic popcorn!
Well, basically making popcorn only involves 3 steps:
1. Popping the corn kernels
2. Preparing the caramel sauce
3. Baking the popcorn in the oven (to make the popcorn crispier and evenly coated). Beware! This is another part which will leave you with a burnt popcorn
The whole process takes about 1 1/2 hours before you can happily sit down and start storing up your calories. Now, let's get down to the recipe.
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 70g unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Place the popcorn kernels and vegetable oil in a bowl and stir to coat kernels in the oil.
- Place the kernels in a pan/pot and cook them over medium-high heat.
- Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.
- Preheat Oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add brown sugar, honey, unsalted butter, and lemon juice (the lemon juice is not detected in the caramel, it just helps to prevent crystallization while cooking. You may also use cream of tartar).
- Bring to a rolling boil on medium-high heat, but do not stir, gently swirl the ingredients in the pan occasionally to help ingredients incorporate. Stirring will cause crystallization of the caramel. Boil for 5-6 min, or until caramel reaches 242 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Watch carefully so at to avoid burning the caramel. If the mixture starts to burn to edges of pan, remove from the heat.
- Once boiled and removed from heat, quickly add the salt, baking soda, and then vanilla all at once. The baking soda* will immediately react causing the mixture to foam and become frothy. Stir to combine and pour over the popcorn. Toss and fold gently to evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel sauce.
- Spread the popcorn in an even layer on the lined baking sheet.
- Place in the oven for 50 min, turning and flipping the popcorn every 15 min to continue coating the popcorn.
- Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes. Using a gloved hand or spatula, break apart the caramel corn to desired clump size. If the popcorn cools completely before you break the kernels apart the will form a mass. It isn't necessary to break them apart before they harden, but I like the kernels to be individual rather than formed in clumps. They still taste amazing no matter how you break them apart.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. If they become sticky or soft, spread out on a baking sheet and dry them in a 200 degree F oven until crisp.
* Note : The use of baking soda is to react with the acid (from the brown sugar), which creates tiny carbon dioxide air bubbles. Hence, the foaming you see in the caramel mixture. Once the caramel has cooled on your popcorn, the air bubbles inside the caramel create a softer texture. The softer texture means you won’t be biting into hard caramel. Rather, the caramel is chewy and only slightly crunchy. It will melt in your mouth.