I have heard that a lot of times… fool proof. But caramel is not fool proof. In fact caramel can be very tricky! I had a recipe that worked perfectly every time, it was “fool proof” and then I changed stove tops. My new stove top is gas, and it is new. Which means that burners burn really hot, and that the heat is more centralized on the burner. . .which means it suddenly became really tricky not to burn my “fool proof” caramel recipe.
Most recipes tell you to melt butter, add brown sugar, when it is at a rolling boil, allow it to simmer for 5 minutes UNTOUCHED. The untouched thing just doesn’t work on my new stove top. No matter how hard I tried. After a bit of frustration and a couple batches of burnt caramel (I cannot buy brown sugar here in Italy, so throwing away caramel is truly tragic for me), I decided to experiment with new ingredients, quantities, and methods and I found a recipe that I can actually say seems to be “fool proof”. I made it twice in one day and had no problems not burning my caramel! I hope these little changes help those of you who struggle with burnt caramel.
Begin by popping your popcorn. You can use whichever method you prefer: air popped, on the stove top or in the microwave. If you buy microwave popcorn, I would recommend getting plain popcorn. When your popcorn is popped, remove all the unpopped kernels so that no one breaks a tooth!
When your popcorn is ready, measure all of your other ingredients and set them aside so that they are ready as soon as you need them. You will be busy stirring for a while, and so you do not want to worry about trying to measure your ingredients at the same time. When all of your ingredients are ready, then put your sugars into a pot and turn the heat on medium-low (on a smaller burner).
Begin stirring and don’t stop until the sugars are melted. If you let it sit, the sugars will begin to stick to the pan and to burn. It happens really quickly, so make sure you keep stirring!!
The sugars will go through various stages (about 5 minutes total). Initially it just looks like sugar. Then it starts getting hard and clumpy (don’t worry!! this is normal), then it will begin to melt. Make sure to stir constantly with a metal whisk or a wooden spoon (anything else can melt). When it is completely melted then add your half a cup of butter.
It will go through stages again. Be patient and keep stirring! The sugar and butter will remain separated initially. That’s normal. Just keep stirring. Eventually it will begin to smooth out and any clumps will melt. It will become smooth and golden brown in color. DO NOT let it turn dark brown!! That means it is beginning to burn!
AS SOON as the butter and sugars and blended add your tablespoons of heavy cream (I measure mine into a cup ahead of time, so that I don’t have to pour 1 tablespoon at a time). It will bubble up a little when the cold cream hits the hot caramel. Continue stirring until the whipped cream is blended (it doesn’t take long at this point 1-2 minutes max).
Pour your caramel over your popped popcorn. Put it in jelly roll pan or 9x 13 pan and bake on low (122°F/50°C – 200°F 100°C) in your oven for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving!