Spicy-Salty-Sweet Caramel Corn

I’m not very good at keeping my sweet tooth under control. Pretty much the only way I can avoid inhaling far too much junk is to just keep it out of the house, which is why I try to give away everything I bake as soon as possible. Running marathons helps counteract some of the junk I eat, but I know it would be far healthier to eat way less of it in the first place. I’ll just add that to my lengthening list of goals for the near future…

I’m not sure what possessed me to make caramel corn the other day. It’s definitely one of those foods that is really hard to walk away from once you start in on it, but I was so intrigued by a recipe for Spicy Caramel Popcorn on The Runner’s Kitchen I had to give it a try.

I made some changes to the recipe, most notably using half the caramel the recipe called for. 3 cups of sugar just seemed like a LOT, and I’m glad I cut it in half because the popcorn was nicely coated and probably would have been just too much if I’d made the full amount. I was a little disappointed in the lack of spiciness, so I think next time I’ll add a few pinches of cayenne along with the chili powder. It was still a really great treat and of course Mike and I devoured all of it within a few hours (I should probably stop admitting things like this!)

(adapted from The Craft Of Baking via The Runner’s Kitchen

2 Tbs canola oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp chili powder
a few pinches cayenne (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 F.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot every few seconds until all the kernels are popped (or you can skip the oil and pop the popcorn in an air popper).
Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine the sugar, salt, butter and water in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally until the mixture is golden brown. While it’s boiling, spray two spatulas or wooden spoons and a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

When the caramel is golden brown, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the chili powder, baking soda, and cayenne (if using), and toss it with the popped popcorn so the kernels are evenly coated, then spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove and let cool.

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