a recipe: caramel corn with a kick

b2a843d7-e759-403d-993a-eb065b1ad7f6Nights these days are ruled by routine. Doing the same thing every night makes Charlie a happy baby, and it makes me feel like a more put together human. Every night this week, after Charlie is all snug in his bassinet with his sweet breaths going in and out as even as a metronome, I make my way to the kitchen to do my final nightly ritual of bottle washing, getting bottles ready for the next day, putting together my own lunch, snacks, and filling the coffee for the morning. But first, before all these very necessary duties, I unscrew the giant jar of this caramel corn sitting on the counter for a sweet victory snack. Victory because we’ve made it through another day. And you guys. This caramel corn. It seriously does have a kick! It’s so unbelievably good. It’s like a sigh of relaxation at the end of a long day. I still have things to do, but my most important task is slumbering like an angel in the next room.

c11842ea-9e1b-4402-871c-a7aca17b3ef5Mike snatched a great big taste test of this caramel corn when it was freshly coated, still warm and malleable from the melted caramel and he almost died. I kid you not. Both of us are lovers of spice, but the cayenne in this may knock your socks off if you’re not careful. The rest of the batch was pretty tame having just a bit of warmth at the back end, so he must have gotten a little non-mixed in cayenne bite. That’s what happens when you sneak a bite before it’s ready. I only die of happiness every time I take a bite. I discovered this Smitten Kitchen recipe when Deb shared it on her Instagram the other day. She can do no wrong in my book. I want to make every single thing that comes out of her kitchen. I’ve never been disappointed by yet, but I don’t know how anything that involves sugar and butter can be a bad thing.

98a11843-a5c9-4db1-8192-2f5de35a4e1aI haven’t been keeping myself to only nightly nibbles of this stuff. It turns out that half a cup of kernels makes a lot of popcorn. I put bits in little jars to take to school as a bright snack at my very unglamorous desk. I put Mike’s in a large jar to have for the whole week at his more glamorous desk. He has the self control to make it last all week. I need portion control. Also, anything in tiny jars just makes me happy to eat. All about the eating experience here.

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**A note about the cayenne: just leave it out if you’re not sure about some warmth! I used only 1/4 teaspoon which really isn’t much.

Here’s what you’ll need: From Smitten Kitchen’s archives.

  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like spice!)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Here’s what to do:

Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas and two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or a thin slick of oil.

In a large pot with a lid, coat the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper.

Have the two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking-soda mixture if using (the mixture will really bubble up).

Quickly pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Use your spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together (Deb says as if you were tossing a salad) until the popcorn is coated.

Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm if you can. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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