Spa-Tacular Caramel Corn

What better way to pamper yourself than to spend a couple hours getting your hair and makeup done, receiving head/neck/foot massage, trying on fashion accessories, and eating fresh caramel corn?

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Am I right, ladies?

That's exactly what the attendees of last night's Spa-Tacular event experienced.  Women from around Union County swarmed into the main assembly room at the U.C. Services Building - only not for the typical services they'd find there, such as the health department and BMV.  Last night was all about spa services and raising proceeds for the Memorial 2020 Fund.

What a night it was!  The room was packed.  I totally lost count of how many batches of fresh-popped caramel corn we made; they were going through it so fast, my beautiful wife and I could barely keep up with the line.  We had a great time.  The ladies loved our show and our food, and I hope to be invited back next year.


This brings us to the caramel corn.  I wanted to demonstrate a fun, easy, delicious, and somewhat healthful snack that could be whipped up in a hurry.  Gourmet popcorn seemed the obvious choice, but I didn't want to do something people had already tried.  I wanted to mix things up a bit, which is why we did a tasting with the family to try out six varieties of popcorn toppings and tossings and see what worked the best (the pains of developing a cooking demo). The two winners ended up producing a neat little contrast: caramel corn East meets West!

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Variety one: American as Salted Caramel Apple Pie Popcorn made with dried apples, cinnamon chips, a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, and a drizzle of home-made salted caramel sauce.

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Variety two: Japanese Fusion Toasted Sesame Caramel Corn with candied ginger and a toasted sesame caramel sauce.

Ticket-holders got to try both varieties (because, like I always say, "Why choose when you can have both!") and came back raving.  I swear, a few of you came back for more (saying "This one's for my friend getting a foot massage across the room."  Sure, lady.).  Even though both flavors were winners, the Japanese twist was the one that really wowed the crowd.

To make your own, follow the recipe for the caramel sauce below using the notes to modify it with the sesame oil.  Pop yourself some popcorn (I was making 1/3 cup of kernels and 2T vegetable oil in a 3-quart saucepot over medium-high heat, 350 degrees) and toss with sesame caramel and chopped candied ginger (about 1/4 cup of each).

If you were not able to make it to the fundraiser and still want to support the hospital expansion project, you may do so here.

Salted Caramel Sauce

makes approximately 3 cups

1c granulated sugar
1.5t kosher salt
0.5c room temperature water

6oz unsalted butter
1oz heavy cream

1. Combine the sugar, salt, and water in a small saucepot over medium high heat.  Cook, stirring and scraping down sides with a heatproof spatula, until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, without stirring, until the liquid takes on a deep reddish-brown hue, about 15 minutes.

2. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully add butter and heavy cream being mindful for any bubbling and splattering that may occur.  Stir briefly to combine.

3. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk fully incorporate or emulsify the caramel sauce.  Serve warm.

** To make the toasted sesame variety, we cut the amount of butter in half, substituting 3oz of toasted sesame oil and adding in about a teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds.  This mixture has more of a tendency to separate when reheated, so you will need to whisk it again to bring the sauce back together.

Food TalkJim Kuebler