Remember Cracker Jacks? I loved everything about them - the red and white striped cardboard box, the prize in the bottom, and oh, yes, the caramel popcorn with peanuts was good too. Someone needs to bring it back - along with the Marathon Bar; if Fun Dip and Pop Rocks are still available, I think there’s a market for other classic treats as well.
This caramel popcorn with almonds and a drizzle of chocolate is basically Cracker Jacks on steroids. It’s relatively easy to make but a little time consuming. I recommend you use disposable foil roasting pans to toss the popcorn in the caramel sauce for easy clean up. This makes a great hostess gift or even end of the year teacher gift, bagged in a clear bag and tied with a bow. Make sure to give most of it away, because it is addictive!
Caramel Popcorn with Chocolate Drizzle (modified from a recipe from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
(recipe can be halved)
- 24 cups popped popcorn (from 1 cup popcorn kernels)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut in chunks
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups roasted almonds
- 16 ounces chocolate chips or melting chocolate (optional - delicious without it!)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place the popcorn in one or two large roasting pans:
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Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, start to melt the butter. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and molasses, and stir gently:
Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, until the mixture starts to boil. Bring the mixture to the soft-ball stage - 240 degrees F:
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt, baking soda, and vanilla:
Pour the caramel over the popcorn, then sprinkle with the almonds and gently mix with a spatula or big spoon until caramel is evenly distributed. Place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Thoroughly toss the popcorn and bake for another 20 minutes. Cool the popcorn in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to the parchment paper-lined sheet pans:
Cool for another 15 minutes and drizzle the chocolate over the top of the popcorn. Let the chocolate set before breaking the popcorn into serving-size pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.