04 June 2014

Vegan Viands #17: Caramel Puffcorn

This morning was the last day for my May Term; it's bittersweet for me. During class today, my students gave presentations about the memoirs they chose to read. In related news, I've got my summer reading all planned out! Anyway, since I wasn't preparing for class, I told them I would bring them snacks. I tried to make things that were good but not overly decadent (e.g., Ambrosia Grapes, Grape Nut Bars, and cut up pineapple), but I couldn't resist something a little decadent. This puffcorn is decadent. It's not even a little bit healthy and it's addictive like whoa. However, it's delicious and a fun, occasional treat.

Wait, you don't know what puffcorn is?! Remember back when you would eat those kind of crunchy cheeseballs as a kid? Or, maybe you didn't like cheetos, but you like cheese puffs? Essentially, puffcorn is like that stuff - fluffy corn something - but without the cheese. It's billed as popcorn without hulls, but it's not even close to that. Whatever it is, it's awesome.

The big problem with this recipe is that it can be hard to find puffcorn in a grocery store. When we were out eat (PA and NY), there was no puffcorn to be found. We would bring some back with us from the Midwest. For those of you in the Midwest, look for the following brands: Old Dutch (used when I'm in Minnesota) or Mike-Sell's (used when I'm in Indiana). In both cases, grab the "original" flavor. After you've secured the puffcorn, the rest of this recipe is super easy and uses easily found ingredients. Pretty soon, you won't be able to tear yourself away from the bowl of puffy, caramely, decadent goodness. Here's closeup.

Caramel Puffcorn
This is the same recipe found on the back of the Old Dutch Puffcorn bag.
9 oz. original flavor puffcorn (see helpful hints)
1 c. vegan butter
1 1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
2/3 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250.
1. In a 3x-larger-than-you-think-you-need pot (2 qt or so), melt the vegan butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup.
2. Once it has melted and just come to a boil, add the baking soda and stir well. THE MIXTURE WILL FOAM. This is normal and the reason for the large pot.
3. Pour the caramel over the puffcorn and stir gently but thoroughly to coat all the pieces then pour into pans to cook in the oven, making sure you will have room to stir.
4. Bake the puffcorn for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15. The color will get darker as it gets closer to done.
5. Pour hot puffcorn out onto parchment paper and carefully break the pieces apart to cool. They will be VERY hot, so be careful.
Yes, that's an entire open newspaper of cooling puffcorn.

Helpful Hints
  • 9 oz. of puffcorn is one bag of Old Dutch, but 1.5 bags of Mike-Sell's. 
  • When I make this at my parents' house, they have a giant roaster pan that I can use to combine the pufforn and caramel and then put directly in to the oven. I can't do that at home, so I use a GIANT bowl for the combining, then cook the puffcorn in two 9x13 pans. 
  • Although I can't explain the chemistry behind why this happens, vegan caramel puffcorn is often a bit chewier than the puffcorn my family makes using real butter. Thus, be aware that this will stick your teeth. 
  • You can also use wax paper for your cooling puffcorn (I did last night, actually), but parchment paper works better. 
  • This is a gluten-free sweet snack and it can be soy-free if you use a soy-free vegan butter. 
The post "Vegan Viands #17: Caramel Puffcorn" first appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

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