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A Homemade Holiday- Who Can Resist Caramel Popcorn?
 

So…do you have all of your Christmas shopping done yet? This is the question that keeps haunting me. Everyone has been asking me this with the holiday drawing near and quite frankly, no I don’t! I mean, I have the main gifts purchased- for my mom, dad, sister and the fiancé…but there are a lot of people that I want to give a little something to, but I have no idea what to get them.

The holidays can be so overwhelming, can’t they? Well I’m here to tell you that those gifts for friends, coworkers, teachers and whomever else you want to give a little something to this season don’t have to be expensive or time consuming! Earlier this month, I came across Chunky Caramel Popcorn. I made it in the Test Kitchens, and once I set it out, it disappeared in minutes. And there my idea was born- I could give this sweet treat for gifts! I’m no Martha Stewart, and I definitely am not the go-to person for intricate, homemade gifts…but this was so easy to put together and I even managed to package it up nicely. I must say that this is a great gift to give. 1) it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to make, 2) it stores and travels well, and 3) who doesn’t love salty, sweet treats?

So here we go. First thing you want to do is heat your oven to 250°F. This temperature may seem a little low, but it’s just enough heat to keep the caramel warm and easy to stir during baking so everything gets coated. Get a big roasting pan to put your popcorn, cashews and pecans in. I used pre-popped bagged popcorn, but you could always pop your own. If you don’t have a roasting pan, you could always divide the mixture up into two 13x9” pans.

Combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.

 

Stir the mixture occasionally, until it starts to boil.

 

Keep boiling it for 2 more minutes.

 

Now, remove the caramel mixture from the heat, and stir in the baking soda. The baking soda helps give the caramel a lighter texture. This part is almost like a science experiment- I always love watching how the mixture starts to rise and change into an almost foamy texture.

 

After the baking soda is well-incorporated, pour it over the popcorn mixture in your pan.

 

Stir it well, making sure that most of the popcorn is coated.

 

Set your kitchen timer for 60 minutes. I’ve found it helps to have another timer to remind you to stir every 15 minutes- just reset it for 15 minutes after every time you stir. In total, you will stir the mixture 4 times.

 

After the 60 minutes is up, remove the pan from the oven and pour the mixture onto waxed paper or parchment paper.

Let it cool completely. Although you might be tempted to break it up, wait until it is cooled completely. Not saying you can’t sneak a few popcorn kernels- I’ll admit that I may have snacked on a few.

 

After the popcorn has cooled, place 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon of shortening in a plastic sandwich bag.

 

Microwave for 30-45 seconds, and then knead the bag to mix it up.

 

Continue microwaving at 15 second intervals, until the chocolate is completely melted. Snip a small corner off of the bag, and voila- you have an easy way to drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn.

 

You don’t have to go with a certain pattern here, just drizzle over all of the cooled popcorn.

Repeat this process with ½ cup of white chocolate and ½ teaspoon of shortening. Once it is melted, drizzle the white mixture over the popcorn.

 

How pretty is that? Now try to resist snacking. It’s hard. Really hard.

 

Let the chocolate set up completely, which can take about 3 hours.  Once it is set, break up the popcorn into pieces.

 

I like to leave mine a little chunky (hence the name, Chunky Caramel Popcorn). Not every kernel has to be separated.

Now comes the crafty part. I found some ribbon and decorative bags at a local craft store to pack my popcorn in. This makes for a pretty presentation, and it’s really simple. You could also use a holiday-themed tin to package it if you plan on mailing the popcorn.

 

Another way to make your gift special is to buy a pretty bowl to put the popcorn in. You can find bowls like this for a relatively low price- I’m always bargain hunting at discount stores or the clearance section in department stores. Plus, whoever is receiving this present can use the bowl again. It’s like two gifts in one!


Place a large piece of colored cellophane (you can find this at any craft store) under the popcorn-filled bowl…

 

…and pull it up on all sides, securing it with a pretty ribbon. Not too shabby!

I also used some of the craft bags with ribbon to pack the rest of the caramel corn. There are endless possibilities on how to package this!

 

Give Chunky Caramel Popcorn a try for a gift this year and let me know how you decided to package it!

Come back in a few days and Becky will be sharing a Christmas Eve tradition.

Mallory is a consultant for the Test Kitchens at Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.

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• Comments •

I have always received rave reviews when I've made this. How long can it be kept in the air tight container? I'd like to give as Christmas gifts and want to pack it up early so that I'm not doing it at the last minute.

Posted Dec 20 2011 by Donna
author_photo
Test Kitchen Comment
From:

Mallory

Hi, Donna. You can store the caramel corn in container with tight-fitting lid for up to 2 weeks. Giving this as a gift is a great idea- Happy Holidays!
Posted December 21, 2011

This is GREAT popcorn. I made it and used it for our office cookie exchange instead of cookies! Eveyone LOVED it. It's super easy to make too! I'm making it again this year for my office mates!

Posted Nov 10 2011 by Cindee
author_photo
Test Kitchen Comment
From:

Mallory

Hi Cindee, I'm glad to hear everyone in the office enjoyed it. Caramel corn makes for a great holiday gift!
Posted November 11, 2011

You didn't say how much popcorn to use. Also Butter.sugar,corn syrup to use. One more thing also the baking soda

Posted Oct 23 2011 by Yolanda Favia
author_photo
Test Kitchen Comment
From:

Mallory

Hi Yolanda, To see the ingredients and their amounts, click on the underlined Chunky Caramel Popcorn listed at the beginning and end of the blog. It will take you to the actual recipe where you can find amounts. Hope this helps!
Posted October 24, 2011

Denise, so glad to hear your family enjoyed the caramel corn! It is easy to make, and so delicious. Enjoy!

Posted Jan 18 2011 by Mallory

This is a new family favorite! My husband loves it. So easy to make.

Posted Jan 14 2011 by Denise

From the Test Kitchens... Hi Karen! If you want to save the recipe, first click on the hyper-linked recipe name in the blog copy. You will go to the actual recipe and there you can email the recipe, print the recipe or save it to your recipe Box if you are a Simple Rewards(R) Club member. If you have other questions about this, please let us know.

Posted Jan 03 2011 by Cindy

Great Recipe BUT how can i send to myself via my e-mail so i can keep it ?????

Posted Dec 21 2010 by Karen Y.

Great holiday gift to take to a friend house especially if you are invited to dinner or a party they will love this because it is so different

Posted Dec 20 2010 by Denise

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