Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn

Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn

I'm trying to cram in a years' worth of movie viewing this month in preparation for the Oscar's in a few weeks. Saw and loved Birdman (best soundtrack by a set of drums plus I'm kind of mesmerized by Michael Keaton's mouth...that sounds weird, right?), sincerely appreciated Boyhood and thought Grand Budapest Hotel was a fun romp. Three down, five to go. I'll never make it. But it's OK—I'll still watch the ceremonies with friends, drink champagne, eat good food and root for my favorite performances, speeches and dresses in the comfort of my family room. It's a tradition. 

I usually provide popcorn for my guests and have been playing around with this variation—a sweet and spicy caramel corn. Cardamom, which is a mellow cousin of the ginger family, is one of my favorite spices for sweet things—so warm and flavorful. It's kind of luxe to use cashews instead of peanuts but it fits the fancy Oscar theme, so why not? Next time I think I'll throw in dried cherries to provide a little chew and two more 'C's' for my title— Chewy Cherry Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn!

Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn

Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco

Makes about 16 cups

1/2 cup popcorn
3 tablespoons coconut* or canola oil
2 cups roasted and salted cashews, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

* This is the first time I've tried popping corn with coconut oil and I really liked it. Just a hint of coconut flavor.

Heat large heavy pan along with coconut or canola oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add popcorn, cover and shake until it stops popping. Dump into a large bowl and add cashews. Set aside.

Spray or butter two rimmed baking sheets.  Spray a pair of rubber spatulas and set those aside as well. You want everything ready so you can work quickly once the caramel is ready.

Heat butter, water and sugar in heavy pan over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring frequently. Boil approximately 5 minutes, untouched. Remove from heat and add extract, salt, spices and baking soda, and stir vigorously. It will puff up into a froth. Pour over popcorn and cashews in bowl and toss quickly with prepared spatulas to thoroughly coat. Spread on prepared sheet pans. Let cool then break into chunks. Store in airtight container.


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