Hi friends! It’s Dori again.
I wanted to make this recipe this week as a belated birthday present to Adam. Happy birthday brother! [Thank you! — Adam]
I thought it would be really fun to do a recipe that combined a bunch of his favorite things: popcorn, bourbon, bacon, and spice. I even have really fun gift bags to put it in. Best sister ever! Can’t go wrong! Amirite?
When you attempt this recipe at home (and you really should), please be careful. Hot sugar does not mess around.
It’s such a great recipe because of the way the flavors balance. It’s salty and sweet and warm and comforting. It’s perfect for fall. I’ve made this recipe for years and served it at countless parties. People love it!
A big part of the reason that it happened is that this recipe isn’t the safest way to make caramel popcorn. Sugar is kind of a jerk to work with, so most recipes add corn syrup. The corn syrup does a bunch of chemical things that I don’t feel like going into because I’d rather spend more time telling you about how me and Adam argued. So I’m going to boil it down (teehee) to this: it slows down the rate that sugar hardens.
Fine, I’ll explain. — Adam
For more on invert sugar, see the post for pecan pie from the box from Ceres, California.
So why don’t I use it? Because it tastes weird to me. And it changes the texture.
Without corn syrup, the popcorn can be crunchier and sweeter. I don’t usually love super sweet things, but I think this recipe needs to be sweeter to balance out the saltiness of the peanuts, bacon, and well… salt. Corn syrup makes a lighter more delicate coating, which I don’t think can stand up to the crunch of the bacon and peanuts or the strength of the flavors.
So, I make my popcorn and gleefully send pictures to my brother. He responded by sending me google image results to other versions of the dish. Nearly all of them showed evenly coated, perfectly colored caramel corn. Made with corn syrup. Sigh. “Dori,” he IM’d, “we can’t have the ugliest caramel popcorn on the Internet.”
Aware that some things had gone wrong, I agreed to fix it in the morning and went to bed with a fully formulated plan to rescue the subpar popcorn.
When I woke up, I had and email from Adam. “You just need to add corn syrup and it’ll work!”
ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH What next??? Is he going to fix my cupcake recipe by replacing the oil with butter? Solve my curly hair by buying me a flat iron?!?
Adam had “helpfully” made his own version of the recipe using corn syrup – which I’m sure is very good but obviously not as good as mine.
The corn syrup version that is obviously more delicious, and not just because Adam produces the pages and writes the captions.
I fixed my popcorn by making another batch of the coating and tossing the popcorn in that. This time I didn’t overcook it or pause to take pictures. My popcorn was fully coated. And I have to say, the double coating is so. Amazing. I almost want to update the recipe card.
The one thing we agree on about this recipe is that you should pop the popcorn yourself. I’d say more about it, but Adam REALLY needs to do a whole post about popcorn. It will change your life. The first time he made me popcorn using his method I honestly though, “OHHHHH that’s what popcorn is supposed to taste like!”
When you attempt this recipe at home (and you really should), please be careful. Hot sugar does not mess around. If you have to choose between burning yourself and not coating your popcorn perfectly, pick the one that doesn’t leave a scar. [No excuses, cook like a champion. — Adam]
Also, make sure you use a pot that it considerably larger than you think you need. The sugar will puff up when you add the baking soda and you remember what I said about hot sugar.
Add and substitute as you wish–Adam mentioned making a recipe with fried chicken skin for those that are kosher-y inclined. Yum. [Yep, for Joanna’s birthday party–some of the poor souls there are not bacon-enabled. Personally, I’m with Vincent Vega on this one. — Adam]
Oh, and one last thing. Want to compare our versions but don’t feel like cooking? If you live in the DC area you can score an invite to kat&dori’s private tasting party by being one of the first 200 to like us on facebook. Both versions will be served and you’ll be able to tell me in person how much better my version is than getting kicked in the junk but not better than Adam’s version. [There I fixed it.–Adam]
From Yesterdish’s recipe box.
Yesterdish’s Spicy Bourbon and Bacon Caramel Popcorn
1/4 c. unpopped popcorn
1 t. vegetable oil
4+ pieces of cooked bacon
1 c. salted peanuts
1-1/2 c. sugar
1-1/2 T. butter
1/4 c. bourbon
1/2 t. cayenne
1-1/2 t. baking soda
Pop popcorn and cook bacon. Put in large bowl. Add peanuts and salt.
In a large saucepan, add sugar, bourbon, and butter. Heat at medium without stirring until it just barely starts to brown, 6-7 minutes. While the sugar mixture heats, mix baking soda and cayenne.
Add the baking soda mixture to the pot. Whisk. Pour over popcorn; stir. Spread on parchment to cool.