I have been busy for the last few days getting holiday treats ready to send to my family in Missouri. I decided this year not to make any candy. I simply didn't have the time because it's an all day thing. So I chose some new cookies instead: spritz and chocolate gingersnap crackles. I had a few leftover, and my husband has really been enjoying the spritz cookies! I guess I'll have to make them again for him - before next Christmas. I also wanted caramel popcorn but didn't want popcorn balls or cake. They are just too messy. That's when it hit me. Why not make them in bar form?
I searched the internet to find popcorn bar recipes to no avail. I settled on an easy caramel popcorn recipe that I could convert to bars. At the last minute, I decided to add nuts, because really, what isn't made better by nuts? Of course, if you are allergic or don't like nuts (I've been told there are people who don't like nuts, but I find it so hard to believe. I think it's an urban legend, myself.), you can easily leave them out.
I doubled the batch so I would have plenty to give away, and have some to keep here. Big mistake! I can NOT control myself around caramel popcorn. I can't allow myself to make anymore this season - it's that big a problem.
Anyway, if you want a fairly simple treat, this is for you. Here's your Cast of Characters. (Because it's caramel, and you have to work very quickly, I didn't get pictures during the making. Only finished product.)
4 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/2 Cup light corn syrup
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup popcorn kernels
3/4 Cup, each, chopped pecans and cashews (optional)
Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper.
Pop the kernels and put into a greased large bowl, making sure to throw out the unpopped or half-popped pieces. Put nuts on top of the popcorn. Set aside.
Melt butter on medium heat in a medium saucepan.
Turn heat down to low, and add brown sugar, stirring well. Turn heat back up to medium and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add corn syrup and vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Continue stirring and cooking until it starts to bubble. Cook for another 1 1/2 minutes.
Add the salt and baking soda. This will make the sugar double in size so be careful not to let it go over the sides of the pot. Mix well.
Remove from heat and immediately pour over popcorn and nuts. Stir quickly, until caramel has covered the popcorn completely. Moving fast, transfer to jelly roll pan, using a spatula to pat down. Once it has cooled, lift out by the wax paper.
Use a large knife to cut into squares. Wrap, individually, in cling wrap.