Did you know that June is National Candy month?!! Really!! Isn't that just the best--an entire month celebrating our guilty little pleasures! It's enough to bring out the kid in the even the grinchiest of us! And this homemade caramel coated popcorn with peanuts, a billion times better than the actual taste of regular Cracker Jacks, will bite after bite, take you back to those sunny, happy, carefree, baseball filled days--you could even include a little prize if you like!
And speaking of kids, I want to talk a bit about a student-run organization committed to bettering the life of kids, Students for Senegal. The club was inspired by a wonderful high school chemistry teacher, Amary Seck, who came from the small village of Lambaye, Senegal and always dreamed of giving back to the place of his childhood. Both of my boys have been passionately involved with the organization for years, helping to raise enough money to build a learning center in Lambaye. Their annual gala is next Wednesday June 10th--if you're interested in attending you can go to http://www.studentsforsenegal.org or if you can't, but would still like to help out, visit http://www.studentsforsenegal.org/hands-in/
Now back to this amazing popcorn treat! It's easy to make and even easier to eat! You start by popping up a batch of regular popcorn--
Then you make an easy caramel sauce made up of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt ( I know it's not the healthiest of snacks, but it is candy after all, and there are no additives or artificial colors, like you'd get in the store bought version)
When it's all done and gooey, you pour it all over the popped corn, add a ton of roasted salted peanuts, thus creating a huge bowl of gloriously sticky stuff!
Now, you could stop here-It tastes amazing just as is, but it is kinda messy, so it's probably best if you continue on and bake the mixture in a very low oven for about an hour so that the caramel solidifies and what you have is a crunchy slightly chewy, peanutty addictive treat! Kids love this, adults love this--you could even package some up in a box, throw in a prize and give it as gift! Imagine kicking back and watching a baseball game with a bowl at your side!! One taste of this amazing concoction and I guarantee you'll never want to buy another box of Cracker Jacks again!!
Totally perfect for a month devoted to candy consumption, don't you think?!!
Copycat Cracker Jacks
Makes a whole lot--about 18 cups!
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 1 hour
3/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (you can use white or yellow)
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups roasted, salted peanuts
1. Preheat oven to 250ºF. Spray two large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick vegetable spray. Set aside.
2. Pop the popcorn. I do this in a frying pan, the old fashioned way, using just a tiny coating of oil to grease the pan, but if you have a popcorn machine, by all means use that. Once it's popped, pour the popcorn into a large bowl and sift through to make sure no unpopped kernels are hiding out. Toss those away so nobody breaks a tooth!
3. Into a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Then add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil, stirring. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down a bit and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often. You'll notice it start to thicken a bit. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Careful, as the mixture will bubble up a bit. Immediately pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss gently so that the popcorn is evenly coated with the caramel. Then add in the peanuts and toss gently again.
4. Spoon the mixture out onto the two prepared sheets and spread into an even layer. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes and switching the position of the baking sheets so that the bottom one goes on top and vice versa. You'll see the popcorn deepen in color and harden. Set the trays on baking racks until the popcorn is completely cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Popcorn lasts for 1-2 weeks if you can keep your hands off of it!
Note: Recipe adapted from http://www.melskitchencafe.com/butter-toffee-popcorn-sugar-rush-3/