Caramel popcorn is good old-fashioned comfort food in my family. I have very fond childhood memories involving huge (clean) garbage bags full of caramel popcorn and intense games of chicken foot. Also, chocolate cake with caramel icing, catching fireflies, wild little-girl-Cyndi-Lauper-dance-parties (who else was crazy about Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?), long small-town bike rides, and secret forts.
But I digress.
What I really want to talk about today is caramel popcorn. Made traditionally, it is delicious, but time-consuming. Made with the microwave, that miracle of modern technology, it is delicious, and almost instantaneous. Almost.
I whipped up a batch last night to see just how fast it was. Start to finish (and that means in my tummy), it took just less than 10 minutes.
Almost Instant Caramel Popcorn
1 cup unpopped popcorn
1/2 cup. (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
In a medium sized glass bowl, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and stir. Cook for 1 1/2 more minutes (again on high). It can wait in the microwave until the popcorn is ready.
While the caramel is cooking, pop your popcorn. My air popper pops 1/2 cup at a time, so I do it in two batches. Pour the popcorn into a large paper grocery bag.
Stir vanilla and baking soda into the caramel. It should get foamy. When well blended, pour over the popcorn. Fold the top of the bag down and give it a good shake (sometimes it's helpful to stir with a long-handled spoon).
Place the bag in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds, then take it out and shake/stir it. Do this two more times.
Pour popcorn out onto wax paper-lined counter tops and let it cool as long as you can stand to wait. Just try not to burn your mouth. I'd feel really bad.
**Also, if you like a higher caramel to popcorn ratio, just halve the amount of popcorn you use)