Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Whiskey Caramel Popcorn

Drunken Cracker Jacks. That is the best way to describe this mixture of spiked caramel coated popcorn and peanuts. It’s like the sailor on the Cracker Jack box had a little too much to drink and the prize is that he was drinking whiskey.

Making caramel has turned out to be a disaster for me in the past. Not always, but usually. Many times my fantasy of whipping up smooth, golden ribbons of melted caramel have ended up in me sweating over a sink, scraping partially crystallized, mostly burnt sugar off the bottom of a pot. I blame it on winging it without a candy thermometer (you think I would have bought one by now.)

But because caramel popcorn should be fun, and because the singe of molten hot sugar on the skin is too much to bear, I decided I’d take the easy way out this time and use melting caramels. The result is a worry-free, considerably less messy, very simple recipe. And I have no shame. Kraft, and Brach’s, and all of the other caramel-making companies out there mastered the soft chew melting caramel a long time ago and that is why I feel completely confident in letting them do the grunt work from time to time.

That’s where the whiskey comes in. To make the recipe “my own” I doctored the melted caramels with a splash of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey. The caramel-coated popcorn is baked to set, then cooled, for a crunchy, sticky, slightly less traditional, traditional fall snack that’s sweet, salty, and just the right amount of boozy.

Whiskey Caramel Popcorn
Yield: 1 bag popcorn
- 1 bag microwave popcorn
- 8 ounces melting caramels
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup whiskey (recommended: Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey)
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
1) Preheat the oven to 300° F. Pop the popcorn. Combine the melting caramels, butter, and whiskey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring continually, until the mixture is fully melted and smooth.
2) Mix the popcorn, peanuts, and salt in a large bowl. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and mix to coat. Spread the popcorn over one whole/two half sheet trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.  Let cool. 

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