We live next to an army. Or, maybe it's just a platoon. I'm not good with numbers. All I know is that there's a mess o' young'uns coming and going, and the little hooligans are always sneaking around trying their little stunts. For example, last night, in the midst of the snowstorm, they came over and swept our stairs and shoveled our sidewalk! The NERVE! Sometimes, when they get bored in the summer, they weed the garden for Pop. And they're polite and courteous to everybody.
It's just so wrong.
And, because of this, it's hard to get even with them, especially when you strongly suspect that their orthodontist scowls at half the things I like to offer…like the Bat's homemade Cracker Jack (I'll have to have her post that recipe, some time soon). Not only is it sweet and decadent, it's also popcorn, so the hulls get stuck in inconvenient places and manners, and then you have to hear about the picking and flossing…ick.
So my friend Fleet introduced me to this concept a year ago: you can have caramel corn without getting hulls stuck in your braces (or, for us older folks, between our teeth or – heaven forfend – between denture and gum). All it takes is a bag of those extruded corn puffs, the kind which are essentially Chee-Tos without the cheese, and then your favorite caramel recipe. This is a mixture of several different recipes, but I've made it repeatedly, and it's always decadent, no matter how many times I toss it together. It's possible to make it with half the butter, but why would anybody want to do that?
It will be just right for spoiling the heck out of those meddling kids.
1 (8 ounce) bag hull-free corn puffs
1 cup butter (no substitutions)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon baking soda
Optional: 1/2 cup peanuts, pecans, or cashews
Preheat oven to 250ºF.
Pour the contents of the corn puffs bag into a well-buttered large roasting pan (or a gi-normous steel bowl like the Bat has).
In a 2 quart saucepan on high heat, mix butter, sugar and syrup, melt and bring to a boil. Allow to boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add baking soda. Mixture may puff up a bit, and will become frothy and foamy.
Add baking soda and watch it FOAM!
Place in 250º F oven. Bake 45 minutes, remembering to STIR EVERY 15 MINUTES until done.
Spread out on two large buttered jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with sides) and allow to cool enough to handle. As they cool, begin to separate the chunks back into individual puffs. If you don't do this while it's still a little warm, you will have big candy bricks, instead of bite-sized morsels of buttery sweetness.
When it is cooled, put into sandwich-sized bags and hand it out, to vanish instantly into the maws of young ruffians.
Or, if you're feeling contrary, hide it away and nibble on it yourself. It can last a week or two if stored in airtight containers. Out of sight. Away from temptation.