Review: Lesley Byram
Why yes, I do like caramel. Why do you ask?
If you tried the recipe we shared recently for Sarah Dall’s salted caramel you’ll understand why it’s hard to move on.
I’m always keen to try things I haven’t tried before, especially when the flavour combinations are already firm favourites. And I was going to skip over the salted caramel recipe in Sam Linsell’s recently launched second cookbook, Sweet. That is, until I tasted it at a Cape Times event at which she recently gave a demonstration.
Now, I’m a believer in not messing with recipes that already work. Why, for instance, fiddle with crème brûlée when the original recipe is already perfect? Why add caramel to crunchy, fresh popcorn? Better still, why add popcorn to perfectly good caramel?
With good reason, it turns out. I used to enjoy the ready made caramel popcorn until I realised it tastes as though it’s made with margarine. Nothing on earth deserves to be made with margarine.
Sam’s recipe is for spicy salted caramel popcorn. I wasn’t sure about that. Cinnamon I can understand but this recipe includes cumin and paprika and if I hadn’t been at her demonstration I would have given it a miss. It’s just not a combination I could imagine going with caramel. I was wrong.
You don’t taste the paprika but there is a subtle hint of cumin which really adds to the deliciousness of the caramel.
I didn’t look at the clock but I don’t think it took more than 15 minutes in total.
Sam’s tips were useful. Use a neutral flavoured oil – I used the neutral flavoured coconut oil. Put the oil and the popcorn kernels in the pot together and then heat. Pop on the lid and wait for the oil to heat up. It doesn’t take long at all for the kernels to start popping. Listen closely and, when there is a two to three second gap between poppings, remove it from the heat. Any longer than that and you risk burning it.
Put it in a large bowl, making sure there are no unpopped corn kernels in the bowl.
Many will say that the trick to making caramel is not to stir the sugar, butter and syrup mix while it’s boiling. Sam disagrees. While it is important not to have sugar crystals on the side of the pot (wash them off with a pastry brush dipped in water), Sam says continuously stirring prevents some parts from going darker than others or becoming bitter.
Once you’ve added the vanilla and spices and mixed it well you can pour it over the popcorn in the bowl. Work fairly quickly when you do this to ensure all the popcorn gets an even coating before the caramel starts to harden. I managed this without any trouble but if you find that some popcorn is without caramel and some clumped together you can put it all in the oven in a roasting pan at 120ºC for a while before stirring again. Stirring with two spoons or spatulas works well. Put the bowl on a rubber mat to stop it moving around your counter top if you don’t have someone to hold it for you – or use a heavier bowl.
Then you can decide whether you want individual popcorn or clumps. Individual pieces look more professional but if you prefer to munch on a clump, why not?
This makes a lovely gift in a pretty jar tied with a ribbon.
spicy salted caramel popcorn Makes 10–12 cups 125 g corn kernels 10 ml coconut oil, or any other neutral oil 5 ml ground cumin 5 ml ground cinnamon 3 ml paprika 5 ml salt 2 ml bicarbonate of soda 150 g butter 200 g granulated white sugar 30 ml golden syrup 5 ml vanilla extract This recipe turns ordinary popcorn into something special, worthy of a party. The spice is mild enough to give it an exciting flavour edge, while still suitable for children. You could add more paprika, chilli or cayenne if you want to take the heat up a notch. I use coconut oil when making popcorn – it is a little healthier andgives the popcorn a lovely flavour – but a neutral oil such as sunflower works equally well. Preheat the oven to 120 °C. Line a baking tray with silicone or baking paper. Make the popcorn any way that your prefer. (I like to use a large skillet with a glass lid.) Transfer the popcorn to a large, deep bowl; it should only half fill the bowl, allowing space to toss thesauce. Mix all the spices and bicarbonate of soda together. In a medium-size, heavy-based pot bring the butter, sugar and syrup to the boil. Continue to let it bubble, stirring continuously, until the mixture turns golden-brown and reaches the hard crack stage of 155 °C. Add the vanilla extract and spice mix and stir vigorously for a few seconds, then remove from the heat. Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss to coat. Spread the caramel-covered popcorn evenly on the prepared baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and toss to ensure it’s evenlycoated. Return it to the oven for a further 15 minutes, then remove, toss again and leave to cool. Once cool, break it up and store in an airtight container.
(Extracted from Sweet by Sam Linsell (Struik Lifestyle). Available at all good book stores, RRP of R250.00)