Salted Caramel Popcorn

This insanely good mix of sweet and salty is treacherously hard to stop eating. It's lots of fun to make, with plenty of lovely little jobs for kids to do, and so extravagantly delicious that you'll want to taste everything before wrapping it up festively for teachers and classmates, friends and family. Install a bigger sink and double the recipe.

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour
Yield: about 14 cups

Ingredients

    10 cups oil-popped popcorn (Trust me, the air-popped and microwavable kinds don't work. We pop 1/3 cup of kernels in 1 tablespoon of oil.)
    1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped or crushed pecan halves or pieces, toasted in a 350-degree oven for 7 minutes
    1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (available at Whole Foods and some specialty stores) or light corn syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

  1. Unless you have the world's largest mixing bowl, give your kitchen sink a quite thorough scrubbing and an equally thorough drying, then dump the popcorn and pecans into it.
  2. In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and syrup, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt, and stir vigorously. (The mixture will get very foamy and light.) Pour it over the popcorn and pecans, and use a wooden spoon to stir it quickly, gently, and well.
  3. Spread the coated popcorn mixture out on a pair of large, rimmed baking sheets, and heat it in a 200-degree oven until it feels dry to the touch, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before packaging, about 20 minutes.

Caramel Cone
We filled cellophane bags (4 1/2-by-7 1/2-inch flat bags, $2 for 24, sugarcraft.com) with about a cup of popcorn each, cinched the tops with twist ties, and slipped them into waffle cones wrapped in paper (Joy classic cones, found at most supermarkets and amazon.com; Stardream Text aquamarine paper, $20 for 100 sheets, paperworks.com). After setting four of them in an ice-cream-cone holder ($15, amazon.com), we used aqua ribbon (.25-inch organdy, $4 for 11 yards, katespaperie.com) to attach the gift tag.

Click for printable gift tags

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