Editor’s note: You can do better than defaulting to a bag of chocolates this Halloween. With a little preparation, you can treat your friends, tricksters or treaters to homemade caramel corn from one of our favorite local food periodicals, Sweets & Bitters. Once again, founder Hannah Kirshner simplifies home entertaining in a way that is delicious and realistic.
And still no time to cook this year? Consider our editors’ picks from Good Eggs NYC that can be delivered straight to your doorstep.
Nonstick cooking spray (a neutral oil, like canola)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
3 cups sugar
½ cup bourbon (or water)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher or
½ teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon Aleppo or cayenne pepper
1. Coat a mixing bowl and two mixing spoons with the cooking spray.
2. In a big pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. After a minute or two drop in a few kernels of the popcorn, and when one pops, add the rest of the popcorn. Cover the pot and shake it vigorously, keeping it moving until the sound of popping subsides, in about 3 – 5 minutes. Remove it from the heat and dump the popcorn into the mixing bowl. Remove any un-popped kernels.
3. Pour the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Moisten it with the bourbon or water, dot it with the butter, and sprinkle in the salt. Place it over high heat and DO NOT TOUCH IT until it’s fully caramelized, 10–15 minutes. (Stirring sugar as it dissolves and caramelizes can introduce foreign particles that cause crystallization, leaving you with caramel that is grainy instead of glossy).
4. Meanwhile, keep your hands busy. Set out two baking sheets or cover a large section of your counter with wax paper — whichever surface you use, coat it with more cooking spray. Whisk together the baking soda and Aleppo or cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
5. When the sugar mixture bubbles up and turns golden yellow, remove it from the heat and work quickly and carefully. Whisk in the baking soda and cayenne. Pour the caramel over the popcorn. Using the greased mixing spoons, toss the popcorn to coat it evenly, and quickly spread it out onto the surface you prepared. Break it into small clumps, and allow it to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.