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It would be remiss of me to praise corn without taking a moment to honour its puffed cousin… popcorn! There’s something about popcorn that always makes me feel like a kid eating it, and this salted butter caramel version is decidedly more grown up, with a nice dark caramel and flaky salt that’ll keep you reaching in for more. Remember to share!
2 tablespoons neutral oil
½ cup dried popcorn
Salted Butter caramel
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
1 teaspoon salt flakes (plus extra for garnish)
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda
Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Preheat oven to 170C (150C fan).
Cook popcorn to packet instructions in a large heavy-based pan over medium heat, or in the microwave. This will make about 10 cups.
Set aside in a large bowl while you make the caramel.
To make the caramel, add the sugar and water to a medium heavy-based pan and heat over medium heat, swirling around without stirring to keep the sugar from crystalising. When the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and keep watch, swirling around and waiting for the syrup to change colour to a dark amber colour with a slightly smoky smell (but not burnt). Quickly add in the honey, vanilla, butter, salt flakes and bicarb soda. Once the butter has melted and the bicarb has made the mixture puff up like something out of ghostbusters, pour over the popcorn in the bowl, tossing until well coated. Sprinkle over extra salt flakes if needed.
Spread over the prepared tray and bake for 30 minutes in the pre-heated oven, stirring half way through and again at the end to break up into chunks. Leave to cool, it will harden and stick together. Just break up into clumps again and store in an air-tight container for up to a week. Or break up and serve in little bags with big bows as gifts for any occasion – romantic or otherwise.
CAREFUL: the caramel is HOT! If you’d like to protect your palm from potential heat transfer, pop a tea-towel between you and the bowl when holding the bowl.
You can always use microwave popcorn for this – I’m not precious.
For a super foodie twist, stir a teaspoon of miso paste into the caramel too, or drizzle over some dark chocolate once cooled. Ooof.