Since we make most of our snacks, I'm always thrilled when I find a new way to make them even more healthy. We LOVE caramel corn, but traditional recipes call for sugar + corn syrup, so I decided to experiment a bit and found a quick alternative made from real (organic) maple syrup instead. And, it's super easy. The hardest part---not eating it all at once after you make it!
NOTES:: Be sure and use a large sauce pot when you make the caramel, because the boiling syrup will foam up and increase in volume more than double when you add the baking soda. It's a bit startling--however, kids may find this weird chemistry interesting and will be convinced you're a genius. Another tip: I use a hot-air popper positioned next to a large stainless steel roasting pan so that the popcorn falls into it as it pops. I call this my, "one-step, one-less-bowl-to-clean method". (smile)
This recipe is for the "light" version, you can double the amount of maple syrup without changing any of the other ingredients for a more caramelized result.
Crunchy Maple Corn
8 cups popped corn (1 cup un-popped)
1 stick of butter (1/4 lb.)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (reserve)
1/2 cup Spanish peanuts (optional)
Directions: Pop or place corn into a large 11 x 15" baking pan; shake pan to sift "old maids" to the bottom and remove them. Sprinkle nuts on top if desired. In a large sauce pot, melt butter; add syrup, salt, and cream of tartar and whisk together until well blended. Bring to a boil and whisk in baking soda. Remove from heat and continue whisking for about 30 seconds. Mixture will foam up. Pour evenly over popped corn and fold lightly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to coat. Don't worry if you can't coat all the popcorn at once, eventually it all gets distributed. Bake in a low 200 degree oven for 30 minutes; removing the pan at 10 minute intervals to stir and re-coat. Remove from heat and let cool before storing in tins or food-grade cello bags. Avoid storing it in plastic bags or containors, popcorn will get sticky. If you live in a damp climate, as I do, I find packing it up within 5 minutes of taking it out of the oven keeps it nice and crunchy.
UPDATE: Hello everyone....for some reason I am not able to reply in the comment box, so the recipe has been clarified per your requests. That is; one stick of butter, not a whole pound. Happy munching....