As I tend to do every year, I made presents for everyone in the office. This year, it was caramel corn with nuts. I pulled bits from a couple of different recipes and put it all together, so I thought I would share it with you.
Winter Solstice Caramel and Nut Popcorn
Large sauce pan
2 large disposable pasta trays
1 cup or more each of pecans, almonds and cashews (use other nuts as you will. You want about 4 cups total)
2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
Start by popping the popcorn. I did this in the microwave, but you can use whatever method you prefer. For the microwave, add 1/3 cup of kernels to a paper lunch bag. Spray well with cooking spray, then fold the top over twice and place on its side in the microwave. Run the microwave on full power for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, depending on your microwave. When it’s done, measure the amount of popcorn you have. For me, this was consistently making 8 cups. Then dump this into one of the pasta trays. Repeat as needed until you have 12 cups in each of the two trays. Then scatter the nuts over the top of the popcorn. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but this helps even out the distribution through the caramel corn.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. On the stovetop, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tartar and salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it boils, turn it to medium low and let boil for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla, stirring quickly for one minute. Then pour half the mix over each tray and stir it through the popcorn and nuts until everything is coated.
Put both pans in the oven for one hour, stirring and rotating them every 15 minutes. You’re trying to break up the big clumps and even out the caramel a little more. After an hour, remove to cool (if you can resist it that long!)
I packaged this up in cellophane gift bags in about 2 cup portions. You could also add toffee pieces, dried fruit or bits of peppermint to the cooling popcorn, or drizzle chocolate over the whole mess. Go nuts!