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I don't have a sweet tooth – in fact, I usually pass sweets by altogether.
Unless, of course, there's caramel involved, and then I'm all in – and then some.
It's like that scene in Chocolat where Juliette Binoche's character, who owns a chocolaterie, tells Johnny's Depp's character that every person has a favorite type of chocolate, even if they think they don't like chocolate.
But it's the caramel at hand that has me all besmitten. (Yes, it' s a great word, in all its made-up glory.)
You may remember the Honey Caramel Apple Cider I posted a number of years ago or the Rustic Honey Caramel Apples I shared last year at the Traditional Cooking School. Yes, these are the flavors of autumn that make my soul sing.
So it's only natural that a perfect autumnal treat would be homemade caramel corn.
But why homemade?
Well, we make homemade caramel corn partially because it's easy and significantly less expensive than purchasing it at the store AND because we can guarantee it free of all the ingredients we desire to avoid, such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.
This version is sweetened with honey and whatever minimally-refined granulated sugar you prefer. As I mentioned in my honey-sweetened marshmallow post, these two work well together in candy making because the crystalline sugar provides the structure to the mix, while honey provides flexibility. You don't want to break your teeth on these (as you would if you use only a granulated sugar), but you don't want it totally sticky and runny, either (like it is if you use only honey). Thus, these two work well in conjuction in naturally-sweetened candy recipes.
So, may this naturally-sweetened treat delight your taste buds and be a welcome guest at all your holiday feasts over the next few months. Enjoy!
For the popcorn
- 1 cup unpopped popcorn
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, divided (for popping)
For the caramel coating
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup evaporated cane sugar, sucanat, OR brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- First, prepare your baking sheets. Completely cover two rimmed baking sheets with foil or parchment, preferably in at least two layers.
- Next, pop the popcorn. If you use an air popper or other device, follow the manufacturer's directions.
- To pop on the stovetop, you'll need to do this in two batches. Melt half of the coconut oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Place a few kernels in the oil and when the first one pops, add 1/2 cup of the unpopped kernels, and cover. Shake the pan every few seconds while keeping it on the burner to keep the popcorn from sticking to the bottom. When the popping stops enough so there are no pops within a 5 second timeframe, remove from the heat and dump onto one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the second half of the popcorn and pour onto the second baking sheet when the popcorn is popped.
- Preheat oven to 200°F.
- While the oven is heating, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. When the butter bubbles, add sugar and honey, then increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- As mixture heats, whisk once or twice to combine well, and when mixture boils, reduce heat to medium once again and let boil for 5 minutes. Set a timer, if necessary, as precision is somewhat important in this step. (Otherwise your homemade caramel corn may turn out too soft or too hard.)
- Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda. Whisk until fully combined.
- Pour caramel mixture over popcorn. Stir to cover the popcorn - be forewarned that the sugar syrup is still molten and hot at this point.
- Scrape the popcorn onto the prepared baking sheets and even out to be fairly level.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
- Cool on the baking sheets, then break apart and store in an air-tight container for up to three months.