Gluten-Free, Salted Caramel Corn

6

Is there anything that reminds us more of summer, state fairs, and going to the movies more than popcorn?

Even on a gluten-free diet, there is no reason to cut out this classic snack. Add homemade caramel and you have a match made in (gluten, dairy, and fat-free)heaven.

And with only three ingredients, it could not be simpler. There’s no butter, cream or water; you only need popcorn, sugar, and salt. And you can use this recipe for a basic dry caramel to make all kinds of sugar-coated treats: you can add peanuts in true Cracker Jack fashion, make clusters of nuts or festive popcorn balls, or even drizzle with chocolate for a super decadent dessert.

So here we go, don’t be scared; making a dry caramel was about the easiest thing I’ve ever done – and I’m no sugar artist.

Ingredients (see note below for possible measurements)

  • popcorn
  • white sugar
  • salt

Begin by popping your corn; the ideal, oil-free method is to use an air popper, but if you need to use the stovetop, so be it (personally I’ve never mastered the stovetop method without burning the corn). Bear in mind that oiled popcorn may need less salt.

If you’ve never made a dry caramel before (wet caramel being one where liquid is used) see the article How to Make the Perfect Caramel, by David Lebovitz. As a dry caramel, once it hardens it won’t remain chewy, rather it will harden like the sugar on top of crème brûlée, which is ideal here. And you don’t need that milk for flavor; browning the sugar gives it a much deeper and complex flavor than you might expect.

So, the basic idea is to take 1 cup of sugar spread evenly in a dry non-stick saucepan, and heat it over medium heat. The edges will begin to melt first, and once the bottom layer starts to gel you can mix it up with a silicone spatula, smoothing out any lumps (don’t over-mix). The sugar turns into caramel very quickly; in a few minutes the sugar will be melted and browning. The ideal color here will be a golden brown, like the color of brown sugar. Take care not to burn it!

image photo

Once you have the desired color (sugar should be before or very close to the smoke-point) turn off the heat and add your popcorn into the pan, just like how you make rice-crispy treats. Sprinkle on salt; the more you use the closer you will get to kettle corn. Turn the corn with the spatula until almost all the caramel has stuck to the popcorn, and then pour onto a parchment or silpat-covered baking sheet.

2 Let cool slightly, then break up with spatula or hands. Store in a Ziploc bag. Sneak into movie theater for a fantastic popcorn treat without all the unnecessary fat and oil 🙂

4 A Note on Ratios: there are a couple measurements you can use here. In the first try, I popped 1/2 cup yellow corn (a large bowl) and melted 1 cup of sugar.

However, I had a bit of trouble getting all the corn mixed in the pan and had about 1/3 of the popcorn left. This resulted in a drier mixture in which not all the kernels where coated, more like kettle corn, which some of you may prefer, less like the above photo.

On the bottom of my baking sheet, this also happened:

1 A popcorn/brittle animal, perhaps?

But for those who want the kernels pretty coated (like the above photo), I suggest about a 3-1 ratio of popcorn to sugar. For the 1/3 left in the bowl I melted an additional cup of sugar and mixed the corn in; everything was pretty coated. Also, if you do use more sugar, a little more salt is needed to balance the flavor.

But whatever choice you make, it’s pretty hard to  go wrong, and you can always eat the “mistakes.” 🙂

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. chicaandaluza
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 06:28:24

    Looks delicious – I usually just salt mine but love the idea of using caramel too. Will give this a go!

    Reply

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