Gourmet caramel popcorn

April 15, 2009 4:57:54 PM PDT
Make simple gourmet popcorn with a unique taste for your next gathering.

Fleur de Sel Caramel Popcorn
By Jean Arnold, Founder, 479° Popcorn
Cooking time is about 1 - 1 ½ hours

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of organic sunflower oil
  • 1 cup organic, heirloom popcorn kernels (7 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt (fine grain)
  • 2 cups light organic brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic light agave syrup
  • 1 cup organic salted butter (Straus is my favorite brand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Fleur de Sel (but you can use virtually any type of medium coarse sea salt like Hawaiian Red Sea Salt)
Note: You will need a candy thermometer. Can be found in any hardware store or supermarket for less than $5

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190F

  2. Make the popcorn: To ensure success, you must start with high quality popcorn, proper popping equipment, and follow the optimal popping method. Equally vital is what you do with the popped popcorn before you coat the caramel onto the popcorn. Stovetop method: My preference is to use a hand-cranked, stovetop popper. Keep in mind, proper agitation, shaking, and heat control must be applied to get excellent results. Place the oil, salt and popcorn in a stovetop, hand cranked popcorn maker. Place it over medium heat. Shake and agitate/rotate the handle constantly. The ideal popping temperature is 479F. Continue shaking and agitating until the popcorn finishes popping, approximately 3 minutes.

    If you don't have a popper, you can use a stainless mixing bowl to simulate the environment. It's not ideal but it can produce good results. Use a mixing bowl you do not care about, as the bottom of the bowl will turn slightly black. Place the oil, salt and popcorn in a large, 6-quart, metal mixing bowl. Cover with aluminum foil. Pierce holes (about 10 to 12) in the top with a knife. Place the bowl over medium heat. The ideal popping temperature is 479F. Hold the bowl over the fire with a pair of tongs and shake constantly. Continue shaking until the popcorn finishes popping (about 3 minutes). Remove the bowl from the heat and remove the foil carefully.

    Electric popper method: "West Bend Stir Crazy" popper is the top choice for home use, in my opinion. Plug in the popcorn maker and allow the agitator to start rotating. Heat the popper to the ideal popping temperature, which is 479F. Place the oil, popcorn and salt into the popcorn maker. Turn off the heat once the popcorn starts popping. Be sure to take off the small round lid covering the holes on the dome (to let the steam escape) once the popcorn starts popping.

  3. Measure 13 cups of fully popped popcorn. Spread it on large roasting pans or cookie sheets and place them the oven until crispy and dry, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.

  4. Raise oven temperature to 250F

  5. Combine brown sugar, cane sugar, butter, and agave syrup in a medium heavy saucepan (copper is best). Stir the caramel mixture constantly with a wooden spoon and heat to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Cook until mixture reaches 235F degrees on a candy thermometer. Then, immediately sprinkle baking soda into the mixture and quickly stir it a few times. This should "fluff" up the mixture. Remove from heat.

  6. Carefully and quickly pour caramel mixture over the popcorn. Stir in mixture onto the popcorn with a large heat-resistant spatula to evenly coat popcorn, working quickly as possible.

  7. Put into oven and bake popcorn until slightly brown / caramelized (about 45 mins), turning the popcorn every 10-15 minutes to continue coating uniformly.

  8. Remove the pans from oven and sprinkle Fleur de Sel onto the popcorn. Dump popcorn onto a cool marble top. Quickly separate each kernel and break apart any clumps of caramel corn with your hands.
Shelf life: 1 to 2 weeks in air tight container
Use: can be given as a gift; served on ice cream; served as snack or dessert
Gift Idea: Before I started 479° Popcorn, I made homemade popcorn gifts all the time. I'd put handmade popcorn in sterilized Mason jars, apply a laser printed label, and tie the neck of the jar with a ribbon. You can also hang a tag around the same neck indicating the flavor on 1 side and best by date on the other (written by hand).

Black Truffle and Parmigiano-Reggiano Popcorn
By Jean Arnold, Founder, 479° Popcorn
(Cooking time is about 30 minutes)

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons organic sunflower oil
  • 1 cup organic, heirloom popcorn kernels (7 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt (fine grain)
  • 5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter (I recommend European style butter like the ones made by Straus)
  • 1 tablespoon minced black truffle or black truffle shavings (finely minced)
  • 2 teaspoons black truffle oil
  • 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finer the grain the better. (You can substitute this with any hard, dry cheese with rich, sharp flavor.)
  • Sea salt (fine grain) to taste
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 190F
  2. Make the popcorn: To ensure success, you must start with high quality popcorn, proper popping equipment, and follow the optimal popping method. Equally vital is what you do with the popped popcorn before you toss the truffle mixture and cheese onto the popcorn. Stovetop method: My preference is to use a hand-cranked, stovetop popper. Keep in mind, proper agitation, shaking, and heat control must be applied to get excellent results. Place the oil, salt and popcorn in a stovetop, hand cranked popcorn maker. Place it over medium heat. Shake and agitate/rotate the handle constantly. The ideal popping temperature is 479F. Continue shaking and agitating until the popcorn finishes popping, approximately 3 minutes.

    If you don't have a popper, you can use a stainless mixing bowl to simulate the environment. It's not ideal but it can produce good results. Use a mixing bowl you do not care about, as the bottom of the bowl will turn slightly black. Place the oil, salt and popcorn in a large, 6-quart, metal mixing bowl. Cover with aluminum foil. Pierce holes (about 10 to 12) in the top with a knife. Place the bowl over medium heat. The ideal popping temperature is 479F. Hold the bowl over the fire with a pair of tongs and shake constantly. Continue shaking until the popcorn finishes popping (about 3 minutes). Remove the bowl from the heat and remove the foil carefully.

    Electric popper method: "West Bend Stir Crazy" popper is the top choice for home use, in my opinion. Plug in the popcorn maker and allow the agitator to start rotating. Heat the popper to the ideal popping temperature, which is 479F. Place the oil, salt and popcorn into the popcorn maker. Turn off the heat once the popcorn starts popping. Be sure to take off the black lid covering the holes in the dome (to let the steam escape) once the popcorn starts popping.

  3. Measure 13 cups of fully popped popcorn. Spread it on large roasting pans or cookie sheets and place them the oven until crispy and dry, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside. Keep warm.

  4. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the truffles, truffle oil and a pinch (or two) of sea salt. Keep warm.

  5. Pour the popcorn into a very large mixing bowl. Add the truffled butter and sprinkle evenly with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss well. Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.
Shelf life: Must be served warm and consumed immediately.
Not recommended to be given as a gift as the popcorn should be consumed immediately
Serving idea: Serve in waxed paper cones. Pairs really well with Pinot Noir

About Jean Arnold:
To say that Jean Arnold has a passion for food would be a dramatic understatement. The high-energy founder of 479° Popcorn developed a keen appreciation for the culinary arts at a young age. During her formative years, she was exposed to many different food cultures - having lived in three different continents - and developed a highly discerning palate.

With a zeal for traveling and cooking, Jean moved to Europe from NYC at the age of nineteen. She attended Cambridge University and earned a certificate at Le Cordon Bleu in London. After several years, Jean decided to return to the States and move to San Francisco. On her last day in London, she met up with a friend of a friend for a beer. His name was Andy; little did Jean know, she was about to fall in love with her future husband.

Jean and Andy share a passionate commitment to high-quality food. Over the years, their San Francisco dinner parties became sought-after events as Jean became more committed than ever to finding the finest ingredients on the market and preparing the most unique dishes.

After more than a decade in the business world, Jean decided that her obsession needed a larger outlet. And so 479° Popcorn was born, partly out of enthusiasm for her favorite snack and partly out of the frustration that she couldn't find anything to meet her exacting standards.

She then embarked on a journey to redefine popcorn. Jean personally investigated different corn varieties, visited organic farms throughout Northern California and spoke with farmers about their growing methods. Jean eventually found two family farms growing heirloom popcorn with the perfect balance of fluffy kernels, corny taste, and satisfying crunch.

She then spent a year and a half in her test kitchen, researching popping methods, temperatures and flavor combinations. She experimented with different types of caramel and a range of savory spices, from Pimentòn de La Vera to chipotle peppers and Vietnamese cinnamon.

Along the way, she fed her test batches to friends and acquaintances. Bolstered by the fabulous feedback from friends and family, Jean and Andy launched 479° Popcorn in September of 2008. About 479° Popcorn
479° Popcorn began with a fond childhood memory of cozy evenings spent playing cards and devouring fresh popcorn with my family. My mom refused to serve anything other than organic popcorn cooked in a sturdy stovetop popper that she'd hand crank until the kernels turned into a delightful fluffy treat. Then, as now, a bowl of popcorn could turn an ordinary moment into a special occasion.

Over the years, I experimented with making my own organic popcorn and flavoring it with exotic seasonings inspired by my international upbringing and training at Le Cordon Bleu in London. In the process, I came upon the discovery that 479 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for popping corn. I knew immediately that this would be the name of my popcorn company, because it reflects the careful attention to detail that I work so hard to incorporate into every single element of the business, from the pristine ingredients to the beautiful packaging to the avid dedication to customer satisfaction.

These days, as I make popcorn by hand in the San Francisco kitchen I started with my husband, I am reminded of how simple, honest pleasures are often the most rewarding. As we continue the tradition of making this satisfying organic snack by hand, using the highest quality ingredients, our hope is that 479° Popcorn will become a treasured indulgence for you too. Website: www.479popcorn.com


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