Well this is it. Christmas is almost here. I have completed just enough of my shopping and hand making so I can safely leave the rest to the last minute. I like having something left to do then.
I like handmade gifts. This year I made a bunch of fruit preserves, jams and ice cream toppings. I had never preserved much of anything before (mabey a few tomatoes back in chefs school) but I was inspired by a new cookbook I bought, Sarabeth's Bakery cookbook by Sarabeth Levine. It inspired me to make fruit preserves and bread, and muffins, and chocolate pound cake and buttermilk biscuits. It has also inspired my daughter Bella to mark the pages of the recipes she'd like me to be inspired to make. This is my favourite new cookbook this year.
I also made caramel corn. I gave some to my sister for her birthday, like my mom and I, she has a December birthday. I also knit her a scarf which ended up in the lost and found at her yoga studio. I left it at the front desk unwrapped with a verbal instruction that it was her birthday present. After teaching her class she didn't get the message that it was her present and she admired it and tried to find its rightful owner. I just mention this since it makes a good case for wrapping and labelling gifts. A good thing to remember at this time of the year. My sister doesn't eat wheat so I thought caramel corn would be a nice treat. Turns out she's not eating sugar at the moment either but could make an exception for her birthday.
I called my friend Mel for her caramel corn recipe. She made this and brought it to our Christmas staff parties out at Casa Bella and everyone loves it. I was reminded of caramel corn while reading Orangette, a blog I've been reading, her recipe is here. She recommends you don't make her recipe without a candy thermometer but you don't need one for Mel's recipe. The recipe on orangette instructs you to boil the caramel till it reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Mel's recipe instructs you boil the caramel for 5 minutes then proceed. I followed Mel's recipe but I also have a candy thermometer so I was taking the temperature as well out of curiosity. After 5 minutes the caramel was at 220 or so and the caramel corn turned out perfectly.
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup of corn syrop
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 quarts of popped pop corn (24 cups, about 2/3 cup unpopped)
Step 1- pop the corn. I did mine in a 6 quart pot with 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Then measure the popped corn into a large roasting pan.
Step 2- combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrop, and salt in a pot and set it on the stove.
Step 3- measure the baking soda and vanilla and have them handy with the popcorn. Also have two wooden spoons or heatproof spatulas. Turn the heat on high under the pot and stir till all the sugar is dissolved and the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup is rapidly boiling. Then stop stirring and turn the heat to medium and leave it alone to boil for 5 minutes.
Step 4- after the 5 minutes turn off the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. The boiling sugar and butter will sizzle and boil up in the pot a bit when you do this. Stir carefully to incorporate the baking soda and vanilla then pour the caramel over the popcorn. Stir it all around to coat the popcorn with the caramel.
Step 5- then bake the caramel corn in the oven for 1 hour at 250 stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Step 6- after 1 hour in the oven I poured my caramel corn on to a peice of parchment paper to cool because I was worried it would stick to the pan and I also wanted to get the pan soaking so it would be easier to clean. After doing that though I think it was unnecessary. You could just leave it in the pan to cool. Once cool break up the caramel corn gently and keep in a air tight container or ziplock bag. I think it will last a week like that but you will eat it all before then.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.