Monday, February 8, 2010

Caramel Addiction

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Well, I'm The Missus, and I have a problem. I'm a caramelcornaholic. It started innocently enough. I made a batch (technically, I made a third of a batch, at least according to the recipe I was using) Saturday night, in preparation for Sunday's Football Festivities. Between the Rev and I, that ginormous bowl of caramel deliciousness did not make it through the night. By bedtime, it was all gone. All of it. Gone.

So, Sunday afternoon, like the domestic maven I am, I prepared twice as much. This, along with the frozen pizzas and the veggies and dip I prepared the day before would be our Football Festivities Feast.

And, like the domestic maven that I am (or have been of late, anyway) I managed to burn one pan of the caramelly goodness. It was there that I learned a profound lesson. Yesterday's oven temperatures do not work with today's (adjusted) recipe.

I realised I had read the recipe wrong on Saturday, putting less baking soda in than I should have. Baking soda makes the caramel get all puffy (sorry for the technical terms here) and fluffy. So less baking soda means less fluffy caramel poured over your popcorn. This means it's a little thicker, so it doesn't melt as well in the oven. You put it in the oven on baking trays to help coat all the popcorn, taking it out every 15 minutes to stir. Because it wasn't melting as well, I bumped up the temperature a bit to help things along.

Fast forward to Sunday's batch. I realise I read the recipe wrong the day before, and make the proper adjustments, resulting in gloriously fluffy caramel. I poured it all over the popcorn, and put the trays in the oven. At the same temperature I had the day before.

Which resulted in this:

That, friends, is a charred pan from which burnt caramel corn was scraped off. And eaten. I mean, it's still caramel corn. (I told you I had a problem. In my defense, I couldn't eat all of it...just the least burnt parts. And I saved the good batch for the game. Really.)

The point? (Besides showing you my yucky pans?) Yesterday's solutions may not work for today's problems. It seems obvious, but sometimes I need to be reminded to think things through, taking every circumstance into consideration.

But, I decided to make the best of a charred situation, and share with you my secret for cleaning this:

See that white stuff all over the pan? Yesterday after they cooled off, I wet the pans just a little, and poured baking soda all over the burnt sugar mess. You want to make a paste out of the baking soda and water, and essentially cover the burnt bits with the paste. Don't be like me, and forget the edges and corners.

Then, do nothing. Let those babies sit. Give the baking soda past plenty of time to work its magic. Then, after about a day, take a plastic food scraper (oh, how I love thee) and scrape the mess away. Everything under the baking soda paste will scrape away. You probably won't even need the scraper to get it off. But, I use it just in case I find a spot I missed with the paste. A little rinse under the faucet, a quick scrub with some dish soap to remove any residue, and there you have it:

Clean pans! (My food scraper wanted to pose with the pan, so I let it.) Now, I know you're thinking that pan isn't exactly gleaming, but it's not like it was gleaming before it was covered in burnt sugar. I mean, it's still me we're talking about, after all.


  1. Yuuuum! (The caramel corn, that is, not the baking soda paste).

  2. Just in case you'd care to try making caramel corn again... (I realize I'm aiding and abetting your addiction here, but the stuff is awfully good), Fine Cooking's website has a COMPLETELY WONDERFUL recipe- and lots of pictures to guide you through the process. I made it a couple years ago and it was fabulous. I don't remember having to put it in the oven to bake, though; just mixing the popcorn with the caramel in a big pot and then spreading it on greased sheets to cool. The fun part was adding the baking soda and watching it fizz up. Hmmm... I should make that again.

  3. I have an orange scraper. It's my best friend.

  4. I didn't know that about baking soda. Thanks for the tip...and the lesson. :o)
    PS. Want to post your recipe?