It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas series and before I get into today’s recipe, I’d just like to take a brief moment to thank all of you so much for your kind words regarding my Springerle and Speculaas cookies, I really do appreciate them. I put a lot of work into pulling those ones off (wasn’t sure if I could in the days leading up to baking them to be honest) and I think that they’re going to probably be my favorite of the whole series this year.
Having said that, here’s to hoping that the rest of the series measures up and doesn’t disappoint.
One thing about cranking out twelve posts of Christmas goodies is that you do learn to get creative with choosing recipes to make- especially when you’re trying to avoid having to JUST share cookie recipes for a Christmas-themed series.
Not to say that there’s anything wrong with cookies. There’s definitely more cookies coming in the series, I can promise you that.
But still, I still like to shake things up for you guys, and in order to do that, I’ve had to try out several new things in the kitchen I’d never attempted before. Most of have worked out very nicely for me so far.
(…most. There’s always the exception, but who wants to hear about that?)
For last year’s 12 Days of Christmas, I put out two recipes of hand-rolled popcorn balls, but this post marked my first forage into the process of making caramel corn, which is somewhat different- and as it’s less labor intensive than popcorn balls, I also found it easier to do in general.
I got my first taste of caramel corn (and was subsequently a life long fan) through the classic Cracker Jack boxes. You know, the kind where a prize still came in the box. (Side note: do they still even MAKE those anymore?) However, I do have to say that nowadays in the sporadic times that I do eat it, it usually comes in a holiday gift basket set of some kind. The commercial brands that sell caramel corn are..meh. Average.
With the notable exception of Crunch n’ Munch. Their Butterscotch Toffee caramel corn is OMGAWD delicious and I dare anyone to fight me on that.
I guess now the question would be raised: well Jess, seeing as how there are SO many options to get caramel corn out there, especially during the holiday season, why would anyone want to make their own caramel corn?
The answer is quite simple, grasshopper.
Sure, you can buy regular old caramel corn practically ANYWHERE nowadays. Some of it may even be good.
BUT, can you buy Gingerbread flavored caramel corn?
I thought not. And now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get into the schematics of the recipes itself:
I did make stove top popcorn rather than the bagged microwave type. It tastes better, and also, this recipe calls for 14 cups (which would require quite a few bags depending on the brand you use).
Making caramel from scratch over the stove scares a lot of people. I get that. I used to be scared of it too. And to be honest, to this day it still makes me a little nervous every time that I do it for a recipe.
However, this one’s pretty much as easy as “from scratch caramel” can possibly get. It won’t require you to monitor the temperature or do the “water”test. It won’t really require you to much at all besides stirring it for those first few minutes. After it comes to a boil, you leave it alone for just 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. After that, you just pour the stuff over the popcorn and pop it in the oven for an hour.
And that’s it. No drama. No tears.
You see what you get for your efforts?
The first taste you’re going to be able to sense is the deep, rich flavor of the molasses in the caramel- especially if you did like I did and used dark brown sugar rather than light. The ginger flavor comes in towards the end, but it’s definitely there. If I had any suggestions for improving this recipe, it might be to add a tad more ginger, about 1/4 tsp of cloves and maybe even some pecans for added texture- but that’s nitpicking, honestly. All in all I, was still VERY satisfied with how this turned out.
Guys, this stuff is GOOD. You know what’s going to happen when you make this? I’ll tell you.
You’re gonna take that first bite…nod….say “Mmm…..then promptly reach down and take another bite. And another. And another.
(And if you’re anything like me, you’l tell yourself that those extra bites were strictly for quality control to make sure you made it right. Which you did. Of course.)
Gingerbread Caramel Crunch
Recipe Courtesy of Taste of Home Magazine
- 14 cups hot, air popped popcorn
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place popcorn in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; set aside. Butter the sides of a small heavy saucepan; add the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat; stir in baking soda (mixture will foam). Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour over popcorn and mix well.
Transfer to two greased 15x10x1-in. baking pans. Bake at 250° for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from pans and place on waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.