I’m going to an Oscar Party tonight, and my Sweet Heat Popcorn is coming with me. It’s a costume party, and there’s also a contest to guess which movies, actors, and directors will come out on top. It should be loads of fun even though I’ve only seen 1 of the 9 films nominated for best picture of 2014. (Note to self: go to the movies more often!)
It’s just hours to go until the Academy Awards kick off, but there’s still time before the red carpet to knock out a batch of this Sweet Heat Popcorn. You likely have all of the ingredients in the house, and it’s worth the few minutes of active cooking time for a treat this addictive. Plus, who watches movies, or awards shows for movies, without popcorn?
A hefty dose of Sriracha sauce gets squeezed into a pan with brown sugar, a knob of butter, and a generous amount of salt. A little bit of vanilla extract rounds out the quick spicy caramel. The popcorn gets drizzled with the sauce, and what really ties it all together for me is that the kernels are no completely coated in caramel, like my Caramel Corn with Peanuts recipe. There’s a little bit here, and a little bit there, giving a nice dose of spice without igniting your tongue on fire. It’s just the right amount.
Sweet Heat Popcorn
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat your oven to 250°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large pot with a lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Drop one popcorn kernel into the oil. When the kernel pops, the oil is hot and ready. Add the rest of the popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give it a gentle shake to coat the kernels in oil. You’ll hear kernels beginning to pop shortly. When the popping sounds slow down, remove the pot from the heat and transfer to the popcorn to a large bowl. Dump in the peanuts.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, Sriracha, and salt together, stirring occasionally until the sugars are dissolved and the mixture bubbles. Off the heat, carefully add the vanilla extract and baking soda. The caramel will bubble up angrily when these ingredients hit. Let the mixture settle a few seconds, and stir to combine well.
Pour the hot caramel over the popcorn and toss it together to coat. Divide the popcorn evenly between the two baking sheets, and spread it into a single layer. Bake the popcorn to dry out the caramel for 20 minutes, stirring the popcorn to break up the pieces every 10 minutes.
Cool the popcorn completely before storing.
Makes about 8 quarts.