As one of our New Year's treats for the kids we made homemade caramel popcorn. It definitely takes a little extra effort and time but it's worth it. It came out super delicious. It reminds me more of toffee popcorn rather than caramel. After you make the caramel and toss it with the popcorn you need to take the extra step of baking it in a low temperature oven in order to get the caramel to harden and get crispy once it cools. So worth it, you end up with a not sticky easy to handle buttery toffee caramel corn. A must try! I think this would be amazing if you mix in peanuts into the caramel coated corn before you place it in the oven or even better if you sprinkle toffee pieces onto of the corn right after it comes out of the oven before the caramel sets. The variations are endless!
2 cup popscorn kernels, unpopped or 3 bags of microwave popcorn
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
½ cup light corn syrup
2 cups packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. fleur de sel (or salt) - I used coarse kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pop the kernels by following the directions on the bag. Place the popped corn in to large bowls (leave room for tossing). Preheat the oven to 250° F and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter then mix-in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Then let boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. Be careful because the caramel mixture will bubble up and become frothy.
Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowl(s) and toss to coat thoroughly. The caramel is very hot so use tossing tools like long spoons or salad tossers! Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and bake for 40 minutes (remove from the oven to stir every 10 minutes, rotate the baking sheets). After 40 minutes, the popcorn should be completely crispy when cooled. If not return to oven for another 10 minutes. Let the popcorn cool completely before breaking apart. Once cooled you can store in an air tight container for at least a week if it lasts that long.