Gooey Caramel Popcorn...
We have a local chocolate shop near us that makes the most delicious caramel popcorn. Gooey and sweet, it's hard to stop once you start into the pile of caramel goodness. I set out to somewhat mimic their recipe, not exact, but it is still marvelously addictive. The secret is not letting the caramel get too hot, just below soft-ball stage is where you want to be. I admit, it took me a few trial runs to discover this, and a garbage can full of popcorn. Some things have to be done right.
This is so far from my normal Christmas cookie madness. I have found I have to be in the right mood to make them well. A very dear friend of mine tragically died on Thanksgiving afternoon and it has thrown me for a loop. I have had a hard time making my way back to my crazed cookie-baking self. It will come back with time. For now, it's caramel popcorn finding it's way out my door (thank heaven it is going out... too tempting) with a smile and a hope that it brings happiness - even if it is only temporary carmel induced happiness!
1 cup light Karo syrup
2 cups (not packed) brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
10 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 quarts of popped popping corn
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine Karo syrup, brown sugar, and butter. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Once it begins to bubble, add the sweetened condensed milk, stir to combine. Continue stirring as the mixture continues to rise in temperature to just under soft-ball stage (use a candy thermometer) - about 230ºF.
Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir in to combine. Pour over pop corn and stir until thoroughly coated and sticky... and ooooh so good. Put in airtight bags to keep from drying out.
*variation - roll about 1 cup of caramel corn into popcorn balls and sprinkle with sea salt for salted caramel popcorn balls.