Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gingerbread Spice Caramel Popcorn

Gingerbread Spice Caramel Popcorn

Appliance Recommendation: Original Whirley Stovetop Popcorn Popper. This is the best popcorn popper I've used and highly recommend this. This popcorn popper requires very little oil and makes light and fluffy popcorn in about 5 minutes. Cooks on your stove top without having to shake the pan back and forth. There is a crank on the handle in which you manually turn to stir the kernels so each kernel does not burn. If you read the reviews on Amazon.com, you will find a lot of satisfying customers with their feedback on this product. One reviewer used this popper to roast coffee beans. It's inexpensive and makes a good Christmas gift along with a batch of this delicious Gingerbread Spice Caramel Popcorn: www.amazon.com/Wabash-Valley-Farms-25008-Whirley-Pop/Dp/B00004Su35/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Gingerbread Spice Caramel Popcorn: This recipe is modified from a recipe published in the Taste of Home magazine, October/Noveber 2010 issue, page 43. I like gingerbread cookies and was excited to try this recipe. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of mild molasses which is an essential ingredient in gingerbread. I've been making popcorn all day today and thought I was doing pretty good with the popcorn, until I realize what I thought I was using as molasses was really dark corn syrup. I had both bottles sitting side by side on the kitchen counter and accidentally grabbed the wrong bottle. I realize my error 3 batches later after seeing the molasses sitting across the kitchen unopened. I gasped when I figured out what I have done. What am I going to do now? I already made 3 batches. Well...(couple of deep breaths later)...just have to make it again and do it right! After making my first batch with the molasses, I was done. I didn't like the flavor of the popcorn. The molasses was a bit strong. My husband and son preferred the batches without the molasses. So, I continued making more popcorn using dark corn syrup in place of the molasses. My error turned out to be a good thing. This is my first time to make caramel popcorn and I was quite pleased how easy this recipe is and how well it turned out. They're just as good as purchased gourmet popcorns. The house is very fragrant with the smell of Christmas when you make these popcorn.

UPDATE: The very next morning, I'm getting ready for work. I'm gathering my lunch and the batch of Gingerbread popcorn made with molasses that we all didn't like. I'n planning to leave this batch it in the break room and let the staff nibble on it. Before I put it in my bag, I decided to give the popcorn one last try. It may taste different with age. To my surprise, it did tasted better the next day....matter of fact...I liked it and it does taste just like gingerbread. So it's all good after all. Since I like it, I'm thinking of making a few more batches with the molasses, mixing the two batches so some will have molasses and some will not, but both having the same gingerbread spices. In addition, there is a contrast difference where the popcorn made with molasses is darker and the one made without molasses is lighter. Hmmmmm! So just to inform those who is skeptical about trying this with molasses, it tastes better with age. The molasses tends to mellow out as it sits overnight or longer and it does taste pretty good. So now you have a choice. If you don't like molasses, it works with dark corn syrup and if you do like the molasses, make sure you use mild molasses. Both are interchangeable.

Gingerbread Spice Caramel Popcorn

14 cups popped popcorn (2.5 ounces)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 4 ounces)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (5.5 ounces)
1/4 cup MILD molasses OR DARK corn syrup (3.0 ounces)
(See update above)
1/4 cup light corn syrup (3.0 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place popcorn in a very large mixing bowl or large stock pot coated with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. When butter is melted, swirl the butter around the sides on the lower half of the pan. Add the brown sugar, molasses OR dark corn syrup, light corn syrup, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly using a small whisk. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, whisk in the baking soda (mixture will foam); then whisk in the vanilla. Quickly pour hot caramel over popcorn and toss well using two silicone spatulas. Don't fuzz about making sure each kernel gets coated. More chances to evenly coat the popcorn while they are baking.

Divide popcorn to two shallow-rim baking pans coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spread popcorn to even layer. Bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes with a silicone spatula. Half way through baking time, rotate pans for even baking.

Remove pans from oven and transfer popcorn to a waxed or parchment paper to cool completely. While still warm enough to touch, you can separate large clusters of popcorn before it hardens. Store popcorn in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.

Yields approximately 13.5 ounces

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