Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

19 March 2013

Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame

Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame

We love popcorn. It's easy, fast, and can take on any spicing combination you throw at it. You can make it any time, on the slightest of provocation, and end up with a gigantic steaming bowl of fresh snacky bitlets. Best of all, it's cheap.

That is, it's cheap if you do it right.

Prepackaged microwave popcorn is not only a ripoff, it is DISGUSTING. Do you want your house to reek as much as the office kitchen does after some misguided person makes a bag of fake-buttery microwave popcorn for a midafternoon snack? No. No, you do not. The solution: plain popcorn.

Plain popcorn is easily available in the grocery store. Most of the time you can find bags right next to the microwave popcorn, but if your store has bulk bins, make sure to check them out too. I tend to buy popcorn in bulk and decant into a jar, so there's no danger of loose popcorn spilling from a ripped bag.

So the other night we had just finished dinner but wanted a little extra something. That something turned out to be this maple-coated caramel corn with lots of crunchy sesame seeds. Hey, popcorn is not only an instant snack--it's an instant dessert too! Perfect.

This caramel corn is easiest to make if you have more than one person in the kitchen, so one person can shake the pan of corn while the other swirls the bubbling caramel. However, it's also totally possible to do it entirely yourself. It just takes a bit of timing.

The proportion of caramel to corn (and to nuts and seeds, for that matter) is up to you. I really like a subtle and minimal coating, and I've written this accordingly, but if you want a super-sugary concoction, you can certainly do that as well. Just make more caramel--or less popcorn.

maple, almond, and sesame caramel

Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame

1/3 cup popcorn
1/4 cup canola oil
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
large dash cayenne pepper
1/8 cup roasted salted almonds
optional pat of butter
optional additional salt

Make the popcorn by the method of your choice, following the directions on the package. We do stovetop popcorn, but an air popper or the microwave bag method are good too. Just make sure to use plain unseasoned corn.

While your popcorn is cooking, start your caramel by toasting your sesame seeds. Put a wide frying pan over medium heat and add a layer of sesame seeds. (If you only have raw almonds, you may wish to chop them up and toast them with the seeds.) Toast, shaking occasionally, for about five minutes, or until your seeds turn just slightly golden brown and start smelling delicious. Watch carefully so they don't burn! When done, tip your seeds into a bowl and set them aside.

Put your pan back over the heat. Add your maple syrup and honey and cook, swirling occasionally to mix, until all your sugar is hot and bubbling. Add in a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, a handful or two of chopped almonds, a pat of butter (if you want butter), and your toasted sesame seeds. Swirl the pan to mix everything together, stirring sparingly with something heatproof as needed. Reduce the heat and let the caramel bubble away gently while you finish up making your popcorn.

When both caramel and popcorn are done, put your popcorn in a large bowl. Pour the caramel over it in two or three batches, stirring between each addition. Spread the resulting caramel corn on a sheet of parchment paper or a silicone mat to cool. (If you want to make popcorn balls, incidentally, now is the time--just make sure to butter your hands first.) For an extra sweet-salty crunch, you may want to sprinkle a bit of salt over the hot corn too.

Spicy caramel corn with maple, almond, and sesame

Give your corn a few minutes to solidify before you attack it. We don't even bother putting ours into a serving bowl, but eat it right off the paper. If you want a little more stability, just put the whole thing on a cookie sheet or cutting board. Voila!

What are your favorite emergency snacks--or emergency desserts--or emergency snack-dessert hybrids?


Michelle said...

Are you a mind reader? I picked up a box of microwave unseasoned stuff this weekend. I'm curious to see if I still like it. My first job was at a movie theater, and I cannot stand the smell of movie theater popcorn anymore. It makes me want to vomit. So by default I've avoided all popcorn ever since.

This sounds amazing. Thinking of popcorn balls just brought back memories.

I'm not a snacker, but I totally just bought a jar of pickles this weekend too. Apparently I'm in snacking mode.

Unknown said...

I was just thinking the other day about how I'd never tried making caramel corn at home, I am so happy I came across this! Yours sounds really delicious and creative, such a great blend of ingredients and flavors :)

noelle said...

I so needed that popcorn decanting tip! And this recipe, which I'm probably going to make like 5 minutes after I write this. I've been on too big of a granola bar kick lately.

Jes said...

Whoa, that popcorn looks incredible! Definitely the perfect sweet snack I'm thinking.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

OMG... I love even regular caramel corn and now you added almond and sesame? I'll have a hard time to put this down. :)

Monet said...

I agree. Microwave popcorn is both expensive and disgusting. Thank you so much for sharing this to-die-for spicy caramel corn. I have had a long day...and I needed something sweet to cheer me up. I hope you are well. Enjoy the rest of your week. Happy Spring!

Eileen said...

So glad you guys liked it! SNACKS. We have at least three jars of pickles in the fridge at all times (which I realize is low for a foodblogger, but hey), and homemade granola bars are a really good idea too.

Joanne said...

So I'm actually DROOLING right now! THe sweet salty spicy sounds amazing!

Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today said...

o wow, this must be delicious! I love popcorn, we make it a traditional way, but I much better prefer yours!

Sippity Sup said...

I don't work in an office, but I have walked down the halls in office building before and noted that "microwave popcorn" smell before. So you made me laugh here. GREG

meigancam01 said...

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