Every kid deserves to grow up experiencing the sheer thrill, the absolute joy and delight of watching popcorn leaping out of the pot and into the air. Around here it's a regular spectacle, and you don't need microwave to put on this show. Popcorn is fun for the whole family, and if you want to really impress the kids, go for the caramel.
Yield: 12 to 15 popcorn balls
1/2 cup (125 mL) of popcorn kernels
1/4 cup (60 mL) of vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) of water
1 cup (250 mL) of sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) of butter
1 tablespoon (15 mL) of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 mL) of baking soda
1 tablespoon (15 mL) or so of fine French-style sea salt
1 pair of disposable sanitary kitchen gloves in your size
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Carefully sprinkle in the popcorn in an even layer 1 kernel deep. Continue heating as the popcorn begin to sizzle. When the first few kernels pop, loosely cover the pot with the lid, leaving a vent wide enough for the steam to escape but not so wide that the violently popping corn escapes. The popping will intensify, peak, then noticeably begin to diminish. When it does, turn off the heat and wait until the popping stops before removing the life. Toss the popcorn into your largest bowl, discarding any unpopped kernels.
Start heating the water into a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Pour the sugar in a small, tight pile in the centre of the water, avoiding the sides. Don’t stir! As they heat the water and sugar will quickly dissolve together and form simple syrup. Stirring actually encourages granular crystallization.
As the heat increases the syrup will begin simmering and steaming, and the water will gradually evaporate. Once the water’s gone, the steam will die down, but the temperature will begin to rise past the boiling point of the water leaving behind a pure melted sugar syrup. As the heat rises farther the sugar will eventually start to turn golden. Put on a pair of disposable sanitary kitchen gloves.
When you see the first hint of golden brown, begin gently swirling the pan helping it colour evenly. When the sugar is caramelized deep golden brown, as brown as you dare, add the butter and carefully whisk it in until the sauce is smooth. The butter will quickly drop the sauce’s temperature and prevent it from over-browning. Whisk in the vanilla and baking soda. It will foam a bit. Working quickly, pour and toss it over the popcorn to mix well with a wooden spoon. While the works is still warm, scoop it out by handfuls and roll into balls. Lay the balls out on the sheet pan and sprinkle with the sea salt. Serve and share.
© Chef Michael Smith