Recipe video above. This is Caramel Popcorn, dressed up for Christmas! Perfumed with warm traditional Christmas spices and studded with almonds, it is outrageously addictive. Great as a snacky dessert option, for gifting and store-like candy. Stays crispy 2 - 3 weeks!Baking soda makes the caramel coating foamy so it coats the popcorn thinly and evenly, rather than in sticky globs. CARAMEL COVERAGE: Use 1/3 cup kernels for full caramel coverage (very sweet, like candy pieces, pictured in post), 3/4 cup for a lighter coating (still sweet enough but you get some white patches, see this photo for comparison)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add a few pieces of popcorn and wait until it pops, then quickly remove.
Add remaining popcorn, elevate off stove to shake and spread corn out evenly. Cover with a lid. Once the popcorn starts popping in earnest, shake the pot gently once.
Remove from heat when the popping almost stops (when you can count to 3 between pops) and transfer to a (very!) large bowl. You need 10 cups of popcorn.
Preheat oven to 110°C/230°F.
Melt butter in a saucepaan over medium heat.
Add sugar, corn syrup (or glucose) and salt. Stir until just combined.
When it starts to bubble, simmer for 4 minutes - DO NOT STIR!
Remove from heat then quickly whisk in Christmas Spices, vanilla and baking soda. Whisk vigorously for 10 seconds, then when you stop whisking, the caramel will foam and increase in volume.
Quickly pour straight over popcorn, toss to coat.
Sprinkle over the almonds, and toss again until caramel cools and starts to harden.
Baking to crisp:
Spread popcorn across 2 baking trays.
Bake for 45 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes or so. Caramel will remelt for the first 2-3 tosses - tossing further coats popcorn more evenly with caramel. (If using glucose instead of corn syrup, bake further 15 minutes).
Remove from oven, leave to cool. Gently break into pieces then transfer to airtight container for storage. Stays crisp 2 - 3 weeks!
1. Caramel coverage - 1/3 cup popcorn kernels will give you a generous, full caramel coating on each popcorn. This makes the popcorn like candy - it's very sweet! I use 3/4 cups popcorn for "normal" coverage - it's still sweet, but not intensely sweet where every piece feels like you're eating candy. See in post for photo comparison.2. Corn Syrup is called for to stabilise the caramel to ensure sugar crystallisation doesn't occur. Corn syrup is a common grocery item in the US and Canada - I stock up every time I go! It can be purchased online in Australia from USAFoods.com.au (here).Glucose is a perfect substitute for corn syrup which is available in Australian supermarkets (look in the baking aisle; it's a clear, thick syrup with honey-like consistency). However, the popcorn needs to be baked for 15 minutes longer (because glucose as higher water content).More subs - golden syrup, honey or maple syrup. For these, bake popcorn further 15 min.3. Storage - Stays 100% crisp and fresh for 2 - 3 weeks in an airtight container!