It's not always all baking around here. As you know, sometimes I cook too! And....I make candy. I buy very little in the way of pre-made snacks; I prefer to make our own. It's almost always better tasting and more often then not less expensive. Caramel Corn can be made with items you likely already have in your home.
Unless you don't have peanuts. Then, I encourage you to dash out and get some. Cashews would be good too, unless you are making Cracker Jack. Only peanuts will do for that.
Homemade Cracker Jack
18 cups popped popcorn (preferably air popped. NOT microwave!)
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups butter
6 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanuts
1. Preheat oven to 300. Spray two cookie sheets that have sides lightly with Pam. Spread out the cool popcorn and sprinkle each sheet with half the nuts. Set aside.
2. In a heavy sauce pot combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Stop stirring and let boil for 5 minutes. Keep the heat steady--you don't want it to get too hot and burn.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The caramel will change color and texture slightly as you stir. Don't be alarmed; it's supposed to do this.
4. Pour half the caramel in a thin stream over one of the sheets of popcorn and peanuts. Carefully stir but don't worry if the popcorn isn't well coated at this point. Repeat with other sheet.
5. Bake popcorn for 10 minutes. At the five minute mark, remove each pan, one at a time from the oven and carefully stir. The caramel is VERY hot and will be thinner and be able to coat the popcorn more thoroughly. When the 10 minutes are up, again remove the pans one at a time and stir carefully.
6. Remove popcorn from pans and cool on a wire rack. I find placing a piece of parchment paper on top of the rack will help keep your sanity as you fight to keep the popcorn from falling through the rack. Cool COMPLETELY and store in an airtight container.
*Hmmm....technically this did go into the oven. Does it count as baking afterall?