I suspect that caramel corn could very well be one of those things that, enjoyed too often, would entirely lose its appeal. And that would be a crying shame. Fortunately, I've been able to develop a strong mental association between caramel corn and Christmas. So, each year, I indulge until I'm thisclose to my satiation point and then put the recipe away until the craving hits again next December.
This year I tried a new recipe, one with a little more crunch and a little less chew. Unlike many recipes I've seen, this one doesn't require baking in the oven.
Did I mention I heart simple recipes too?
8 cups popped corn
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed (or 3/4 cup white sugar plus 3/4 cup cassonade sugar)
1/2 cup light corn syrup (or Roger's golden syrup)
1/2 teasoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts, salted and toasted (optional)
handful of cacao nibs (optional)
Pop the popcorn and measure it out into a large heatproof bowl, making sure you'll have enough room to stir in the caramel without spilling.
Grease a baking sheet. Measure out the baking soda and vanilla into two separate small bowls.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over moderate heat. Add the sugar, corn syrup and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Insert a candy thermometer. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit (about 8-10 minutes). (Note that the mixture will increase in volume as it boils.)
Remove the pot from heat and get ready to move fast! Add the vanilla and stir. Add the baking soda and stir. (At this point, the mixture will turn into an opaque syrup, the colour of coffee and milk. Don't worry!) Add the nuts and cacao nibs and stir. Add the popcorn and stir until well-coated. Spread the mixture relatively evenly on the greased baking sheet using a heatproof utensil. Leave to set.
Source:David Lebovitz, http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2005/07/index.html#000065.