For years I worked in professional kitchens where Chefs were challenged on a daily basis to create new and exciting dishes for diners. Some like to say there is no original recipe and that everything is a riff on something that already exists. While that may be true, it doesn't take away from beauty of what was created in that moment by that particular person. Think about chocolate chip cookie recipes and how a dozen people can make the same recipe and each person will have a slightly different version. Our hands, our chi (don't laugh, I really believe that good energy makes good food), our ingredients, our tastebuds...all of these things make food and our experiences different from one another.
So, here's another caramel popcorn for ya.
I have this thing for maple syrup and brown sugar and we all know sugar is evil, blah, blah, blah, but look, if you eat it every once in a while, it's okay. If you eat it all the time, not okay, but that's something I won't go into here. This caramel corn is different than your run-of-the-mill treat, but still familiar enough to keep the nostalgia alive. Try it and I hope you think it's the most delicious thing you've ever had, too!
CARAMEL CHOCOLATE POPCORN
~yields roughly 4-5 cups
1/4 cup unpopped popcorn, roughly 4 cups popped
1/4 cup (55 g) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (70 g) maple syrup
2 Tbs coconut oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard 63% dark chips)
Maldon salt for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
Line a half sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
Using whatever means you choose, pop the popcorn and set aside.
In a 2 qt pot, combine the sugar, maple syrup, coconut oil and salt.
Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for approximately 3 minutes or until it reaches 245ºF on a candy thermometer.
Remove from the heat and using a heat proof spatula, add the baking soda and vanilla extract. Using caution, as the mixture will bubble up, stir in the baking soda thoroughly, then pour over the popcorn.
Stir the mixture well so all of the popcorn is coated with caramel.
Spread on the prepped sheet pan and sprinkle the pecan halves over the top, lightly pressing into the mixture with the spatula.
Bake for 15 minutes or so until the caramel looks "dry" and has a crackled look to it.
Sprinkle Maldon salt over the top while still warm.
If you want the chocolate to melt a bit, wait 5 minutes before adding the chips. If you want them more solid, wait 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can add the chocolate before putting it in the oven and bake it in. It all works :)