Before having children, I hadn’t celebrated Halloween since I was a child. While many adults love getting all glam, or gory, I always considered it a kid’s holiday, and much prefer leaving dress up to them.
When it comes to popcorn, though, I’m all for this relatively healthy treat donning a sweet disguise. I fell in love with making caramel corn a few years back. I’d planned to make some to fill goody bags, except I hadn’t read the full directions. With only two hours until guests would start arriving, using the traditional oven method was not an option. Rather than scrap the idea and think of something else, I decided to improvise with my microwave. It was a unique approach to updating a classic, using a new method to deliver the same familiar flavor and crunch.
This year I figured why not let my caramel corn play dress up too, with a whisper of chocolate and pecans. It proves you’re never to old to be a kid again, especially with treats like this to look forward to once a year.
Sea Salted Cocoa-Caramel Corn
Makes two quarts
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) butter
2/3 cup (5 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (100 grams) brown rice syrup or corn syrup
1 tablespoon (9 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 quarts (8 cups) air-popped popcorn
1 cup (3.75 ounces) pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt flakes (like Maldon), for finishing (optional)
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicon liners or buttered sheets of parchment paper; set aside.
- Add the butter to a deep, microwave-safe glass bowl. Cook on HIGH for one minute, until melted. Pour in the brown rice syrup and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cook on HIGH for 2 minutes.
- Quickly stir in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and baking soda—it will bubbly slightly, and that’s okay. Fold in the popcorn and pecans, trying to coat each piece, the mixture will be very sticky. Cook on HIGH for 2 minutes. Remove from the microwave and stir again to make sure kernels and nuts are thoroughly coated. Cook on HIGH for 1 to 2 more minutes, watching carefully during the last 30 seconds to ensure it doesn’t overcook.
- Using a rubber spatula, divide caramel corn into a single layer on prepared trays. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Let cool completely before serving.
Cooking note: Actual times vary according to the size of your microwave. This recipe was tested using a 1000-watt model. Smaller wattage ovens may require a longer cooking time, and larger ones may require less.