Before we had our daughter, Pete and I lived like nomads, wandering all over the country. We moved from Milwaukee to San Diego to Tampa to Indianapolis to Grand Rapids and, finally, to Minneapolis. Yes, I am a Midwestern girl at heart. I don’t even mind a good snowstorm now and then--after all, it comes with the territory. I’m sure that all of the cold weather has something to do with the proliferation of comfort food that is served up in these parts. In our many travels, I was surprised at the some of the things that I could only find in Wisconsin or Minnesota. One thing in particular is that oddest of snack foods known as Puffcorn.
Puffcorn is manufactured in St. Paul under the brand Old Dutch (I know, I know—there is that weird Dutch connection again). Old Dutch, by the way, is the inventor of the fabulous dill pickle flavored potato chip. But, I digress….let’s talk about Puffcorn. What is it? According to the bag, Puffcorn has a “fresh popcorn flavor that simply melts in your mouth without any hard kernels of hulls”. Hmmm. The fresh popcorn flavor is a bit of a stretch, but it is true that it melts in your mouth. Think Cheeto’s, the puffed kind, without the cheese. By itself, I’m not a huge fan of Puffcorn. But, follow the recipe on the back of the bag for Caramel Puffcorn and, oh my god, pure heaven! This caramel corn absolutely melts in your mouth and it is so addicting that my sister has to send many bags of Puffcorn out to California each year so that my niece can make up bags of deliciousness as holiday gifts for all of her friends. So, let’s get on with the recipe (right off the back of the bag):
Caramel Corn—Old Dutch Style
1 package Old Dutch Puffcorn (I’ve seen that Frito Lay makes a version now, too)
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 °.
Combine butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup in a 2 quart saucepan; cook on medium heat until mixture has melted (I let it come to a boil and let it boil for about 2 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam, so be sure your pan is large enough.
Pour Old Dutch Puffcorn into a large roaster pan (sometimes I add a can of honey roasted peanuts with it). Pour caramel mixture over the Puffcorn and stir until mixed.
Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring at least every 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, pour on wax paper and break apart. Let cool. (Actually, you might want to let it cool before you break it apart…ouch)
Around the holidays, I like to put this in those cute little decorative bags that you get at Michaels, but since I was making this batch for pure gluttony, I merely put it in a plain plastic bag. It won’t last long, anyway…..