Popcorn lovers unite! Today is National Caramel Popcorn Day which gives people everywhere an excuse to indulge in one of America’s all-time favorite treats. Just picture this: airy globes of popped organic corn coated with the perfect balance of sweet and salty topping, then baked to toasted crunchy perfection. I just drooled a little thinking about it!
If you think it’s not possible to make “enlightened” caramel popcorn, then I’ve got good news. Ditch the mostly GMO-filled commercial options out there, and rustle up this sophisticated recipe from my friend and colleague, Chef Trudy Schafer.
When it comes to healthy cooking, Schafer knows her stuff. A Certified Natural Chef, she received her culinary training at Bauman College in Berkeley, California and earned an M.A. in Holistic Health & Nutrition from John F. Kennedy University. Currently, Trudy keeps busy running The Healing Hearth; her successful personal chef business where she specializes in preparing healthy cuisine for people recovering from illnesses.
In addition, she serves as the Culinary Director for the Ceres Community Project of Marin where she teaches teen volunteers to cook nourishing meals made with local, organic whole foods that are delivered free to cancer patients. She loves educating the kids about the healing power of real food, while helping them gain confidence in the kitchen. To date, Ceres Project teens have made and distributed thousands of meals to families struggling with serious illness in their community.
I first tasted Chef Trudy’s reformed recipe for caramel corn when it was served as part of the dessert course at an exclusive dinner for Michael Pollan last fall. It was a hit! She generously agreed to let me to share this fabulous recipe with my readers.
Be warned: this caramel corn is truly addictive. You’ll never crave store-bought again!
CHEF TRUDY’S CARAMEL CORN
Printable recipe here: Chef Trudy’s Caramel Corn
4 Tablespoons Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
½ cup Organic Popping Corn Kernels
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp salt (optional)
To make popcorn:
- Melt the organic virgin coconut oil over high heat in a large 3 quart saucepan with a glass lid. When coconut oil is melted, add 3 kernels of corn and place the lid on tight. When the kernels have popped, add the remaining kernels in an even layer, reduce heat to low, and cover tightly. Keep covered as the corn pops. When rapid popping has slowed to almost nothing, remove the pan from heat and transfer the popped corn to a large bowl. Set aside and make caramel.
To make caramel:
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in brown sugar and molasses. Bring to a boil.
- Insert a candy thermometer in the mixture and continue boiling, stirring constantly, to “hard ball” stage (250-265 degrees on a candy thermometer *See note). Watch carefully so as not to burn.
- Remove from heat and add 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp butter. Mix to blend.
- Pour caramel over the popped corn (*add peanuts at this stage if desired) and toss to mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt (optional).
NOTES: “Hardball” stage is when a small ball of the mixture will hold its shape but it is still flexible enough to squish easily.
Chef Trudy adds: “This could be fun with coconut palm sugar instead of the brown sugar. You can also add peanuts if you like.”