This year, I am gingerbread obsessed. I cannot get enough. Gingerbread soap, gingerbread biscotti, and now this completely awesome gingerbread caramel corn. It’s scary good. I can’t stop snacking on it. It’s a problem.
It took me two batches to get it right, but by combining two recipes on my second try, I got it really, really right. The caramel is buttery and crispy, the pretzels are crunchy and salty, and the spices leave the yummiest hint of holiday gingerbread on your tastebuds. Plus, your house smells like gingerbread, popcorn, and caramel after you’ve finished the batch. It’s the best kind of torture waiting for it to bake and cool and the best kind of indulgence when you can finally curl up under a blanket, pop in a Christmas movie, and snack on your own little bowl of this most excellent treat. It would also make a perfect homemade holiday gift…if you can control yourself!
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. molasses
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 cups air-popped popcorn (from 1/2 c. kernels)
1 c. toasted slivered almonds
2 c. pretzels pieces
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1. Preheat oven to 250° F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicone baking mats. (If you don’t have silicone mats, leave baking sheets bare. Do not use foil or parchment.)
2. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a very large (I used a 6 3/4 qt. French oven) heavy-bottomed pot. Melt butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and salt over medium heat. Allow to boil, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is bubbling and dark amber colored and the thermometer reads 250° F, about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix the popcorn, almonds, and pretzels pieces in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix together baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
4. When caramel has reached temperature, carefully stir in vanilla and baking soda/spice mixture. The caramel will bubble vigorously.
5. Pour popcorn mixture into pot and gently fold with a heat-safe rubber spatula to coat as best you can.
6. Evenly divide popcorn among baking sheets. Bake 15 minutes, then remove pans and gently stir popcorn to better coat it. (You may find it easiest to use two spatulas for this.) Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes more. Once again, remove and stir. Place baking sheets on a wire rack to cool completely.
7. When cooled, store in airtight containers, up to 2 weeks. (As if it’ll last that long.)
Yield: 12 servings