I have pretty decent willpower when it comes to food — with a few notable exceptions. At the top of that list resides the Jalapeño Cheeto (not to be confused with Flaming Hot Cheetos whose only redeeming quality is this excellent video). I don’t know what magic took place to make Jalapeno Cheetos even more delicious than the original flavor, but it worked. These things are the straight-up definition of addictive and I am absolutely powerless against them.
My initial encounter was a few years ago when my husband left a small bag open on the kitchen counter before he left for work. I came home early and poured out a few nibbles before folding up the bag and putting it away. Those few bites was all it took. I kept creeping back into the kitchen and sneaking handfuls until the bag was (shamefully) empty.
When my husband came home, I told him he was forbidden from bringing them into our house ever again. While he hasn’t completely complied with that request, they are thankfully a rare indulgence.
I mention this story because I have recently discovered — thanks yet again to my husband, bearer of evil temptations — something just as hauntingly addictive as those spicy, cheesy morsels.
Behold, the most perfectly crunchy, salty and sweet caramel corn ever.
This caramel corn is incredible — supremely crunchy, not at all sticky, and so full of buttery goodness that it’s downright impossible to ignore. My husband brought me home some from a batch he made at work and then (for some crazy reason) though we ought to make another batch at home.
It’s so good that — in a rather ironic twist — several of my co-workers have forbidden me from making it again. Or at least, from bringing it into the office. It appears I’m not the only one unable to resist its charm.
In fact, just because we needed to stop eating it, we gave the last bag away to the guys who delivered our new couch. I think they were perplexed by the gift, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts after one bite they were hooked too.
So if you’re going to a party (Superbowl, anyone?), making goodie bags for friends or simply have stronger willpower than I do, you should make this very soon. It’s amazing.
Salty & Sweet Caramel Corn
- 4-5 quarts of popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup kernels)
- 1/2 cup glucose (you can also use light corn syrup)
- 1 tsp crunchy salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread popped popcorn out on sheet pans and stick in the oven. This step isn’t essential but it will help dry out the popcorn. Oh, make sure any unpopped kernels are tossed out — you don’t want to break anyone’s teeth!
While the popcorn is in the oven, melt the butter with the glucose and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pot, stirring often to avoid scorching. (You really want a big pot — the mixture will bubble quite a bit.)
Mixture will begin to boil. Allow it to cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees, about 5 minutes.
Add the vanilla and the salt and mix well.
Remove pan from heat and add the baking soda. Beware — this is where the mixture will go crazy and boil up so be prepared.
Once the caramel mixture is done, add the popcorn to a (very) large bowl and drizzle the caramel over it, mixing gently. Don’t stress if the popcorn is not evenly coated. It will continue to be mixed.
Place caramel corn on 2 sheet pans lined with greased parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The finished product should be crunchy, not tacky.
Taste for salt. If it needs more, add some crunchy flakes.
Allow to cool and try to stop eating it. I dare you.