Sunday, November 01, 2009

Over the Top After School Snack

Once upon a time in the Land of St. Honore', Miguel opened the front door and smiled. His mom was working at home today and she must have decided to take a break and make an after school snack for him.

For some reason when you stood in the front hall you could always smell what was baking in the oven. Today he smelled popcorn!

Miguel loved popcorn and often had a bag of microwave popcorn after school. But today he also smelled sweetness and maybe toasted nuts, too.

Looking into the kitchen he immediately saw what smelled so good. A baking sheet was full of popcorn that had been mixed with a golden brown substance and he could see little dark red bits and what looked like chopped almonds. The aroma was heavenly.

Then his mom came out of the pantry, smiling when she saw him. He gave her a big hug and she hugged him back. They did the usual 'how was your day' 'fine' 'what's up' 'stuff'' greeting. Finally he couldn't wait any longer. "What's that in the pan?" he asked. Getting even she said, "Stuff", but relented and said, "Caramel Corn with Dried Cranberries and Almonds".

"Mmmpf" he said with a mouth full of the stuff.

After he swallowed he said, "That's great stuff! Sweet and crunchy and salty with the sweet tart of the cranberries and popcorn...who can hate popcorn?"

Turning into the pantry, she retrieved a big bowl and gave it to him to fill up.

"I have to go to the Post Office for work and Dad won't be home until later, so dinner is at you have homework?"

"Finished it on the bus" he said and headed for his room and the computer to IM hiis friends and enjoy this bowl of caramel corn. "Thanks for the awesome snack, Mom!"

(Elle's note: There will be more journeys to the imaginary Land of St. Honore', where baking is a birth right, than once a month for Daring Bakers. Writing little stories is too much fun to only do once a month. Besides, some folks have asked for more..silly people!)

In case you want to make this treat, which is a variation of Caramel Apple-Caramel Corn by Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, understand that it makes a lot. I made half her recipe and it still was enough for Sweetie and I to snack on it during two sessions of watching Net flick versions of the Rockford Files. Since they are set in California in the time period when I had just come to California, I'm enjoying the period decor and clothing as well as the snappy dialog. The obligatory car chase each episode is wearing thin, but we are getting to meet some of the regulars like Angel.

Be careful of the hot caramel. It can burn you badly.

I was making this after dinner and after working too much, so I had a brain fart and didn't make sure I had popcorn ready when I started the caramel. That meant turning the mixture off while I popped the corn and mixed in the dried fruit, nuts and caramel bits. By the time I got back to the caramel in the pot, it was hard to tell if the sugars had dissolved. I suspect that it would be better caramel if I cooked it all at once, paying more attention to the cooking stages. Even so, it was delicious! Your tummy will thank you if you stop at one good sized serving since it is can eat far too much without realizing it.

Hope you enjoyed Halloween. The jack o'lantern in the header was a collaboration between a niece and her 3 year old son. He started out wanting it to be a fierce fellow and ended with wanting it to be a smiling on. I think it is adorable, especially since they gave it to me to keep.

Caramel Corn with Dried Cranberries and Almonds
based on recipe by Peabody at Culinary Concoctions by Peabody - this is half the amount of hers

1 1/2 bags plain (not buttered) microwavable popcorn (about 8-9 cups depending on how much pops), popped, but you can also pop about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of plain popcorn in the microwave in a brown bag that you have added 1 T of oil to and folded the top tightly to seal.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (if can’t find, use corn syrup, but I like Lyle’s way better…you can buy it on
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
8 oz bag of caramels (unwrapped…because plastic doesn’t taste that good), chopped into fourths (yep, kind of a pain in the butt, but yummy) or equivalent of caramel baking bits (faster).
1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped

Line a baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mat. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 200F.

Put the popcorn into a large bowl. Add the dried cranberries, almonds and caramel pieces and toss with popcorn. Set aside.

In a large saucepan bring sugars, syrup, salt, and butter to a boil, over high heat. Boil until all the ingredients has dissolved and it is boiling away at you.

Add vanilla extract and baking soda and stir quickly. Be warned, it’s going to bubble up and get mad at you.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn mixture and mix thoroughly.

Spread out evenly onto prepared baking sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Your caramels will melt, but will firm back up as they cool, don’t panic. Enjoy.

(If you don’t want to do the baking method, and you own a candy thermometer, you can skip the oven step by bringing the caramel mixture up to 300F while it is boiling [right before you add the vanilla and baking soda]. This method allows for the caramel bits to stay their shape better. )

I'm sure that you can figure out other goodies to go in the mix instead or or in addition to the cranberries and nuts (or dried apples). Go wild! This recipe can take it.


  1. Ehh maybe this is a dumb question but can you really use a microwave with regular popcorn and a brown paper bag -and a tbs oil-? I'd love that!
    (I'd love a huge bowl of this corn as well!)

  2. Baking Soda, Yes, it's something I learned by watching ALton Brown on the Food Network. I use a regular brown lunch bag, plain, cheap popping corn, and either olive or safflower oil. Alton stapled his bag, but if I only use 1/4 cup of the kernals, folding the top down and pressing firmly at each fold, for about 3 small folds seems to work just as well. I pop them at full power for 3 minutes and then a minute at a time until the popping sounds slows down. My daughter's significant other (boyfriend) swears by this method...and he loves his popcorn!

  3. Wow! Gone are the days watching a huge pot on the gas...! I am sooo NOT going to tell my 16yr old this. Thanks for the explanation Elle!

  4. (We do popcorn in the paper bag all the time. Yay, AB!)

    I'm almost positive this recipe doesn't need a half cup of dark chocolate chips in there, but I need to watch some Rockford Files and eat some to make sure. Although I may have to have my popcorn with Ironsides, which was *MY* favorite 70's detective show. (I had a mad crush on Raymond Burr when I was four. I blame my mother and Perry Mason.) Looks tasty!

  5. Hehe, thanks for the little note on the jack-o-lantern. Now you can actually see the transformation from the "evil stare"-eye lids to the broad grinning mouth.

  6. Yeah - I can see eating "too much" of that fairly easily! ;) Sounds yummy, and I don't need to be going to make some, it being nearly 10:00 p.m. and the kitchen should be closed! :)

  7. Tanita, Yeah AB has some great recipes and tips. The addition of choc chips could only improve this recipe! I thought Raymond Burr was pretty cool, too, especially as Perry Mason.

    Andreas, Yeah it is subtle, but a cool look for a little kid to figure out. :)

    DaviMack, See if you like it with the choc chips added..heehee.

  8. Next Sister Down3:07 PM

    Hmmmm, now I might not have to buy Moose Munch for Christmas--not an extra pack for me, anyway! This looks like it will be just as good--and open to experimentation!

    My favorite thing to do with popcorn for a simple (non-sweet) snack is to add melted butter, finely grated Parmesan cheese, and cayenne pepper. I experimented once or twice with sauteeing some finely minced garlic in the melted butter, but it didn't add enough yumminess to be worth the extra trouble. But the butter, Parmesan, and cayenne are easy and quick--if you like spiciness, anyway.

  9. Next Sisiter Down, That savory popcorn sounds yummy! Think I would only use a hint of cayenne, but it needs some. Hugs to you...hope you are not working too hard Sis. Love, Elle

  10. Saturday night, boys are watching a match on tv, I made a huge batch of popcorn, just wanted to let you know it works wonders!

    (Next will be yours with added yumminess, now I know I can do it..)
    Thanks again!