What I'm Bringing to the Game: Vanilla-Bourbon Brown Butter Caramel Corn

Friends of ours invited us over to watch the Packers game yesterday afternoon, and I of course could not arrive empty-handed. So along with a six-pack of Oktoberfest beers, I brought a large bin of freshly-made caramel corn. This caramel corn is ideal for sharing, as it is super-delicious and easy to eat up all on one's own. Not that I have ever done that before, or anything.

Browning the butter adds a bit of complexity to the flavor. Don't be scared if your butter and sugar don't seem to get along at first; after boiling for five minutes, everything should meld together quite well. The addition of vanilla and bourbon at the end of cooking lends a subtle sweet and smoky flavor to the caramel corn.

In the end, the caramel corn was a big hit amongst our game-watching pals, and the Packers pulled out the W, even if it wasn't the prettiest of wins. (Hooray for terribly/perfectly timed timeouts called on the sideline by the opposition!)

Vanilla-Bourbon Brown Butter Caramel Corn (printer-friendly version)
makes 8+ servings

12 cups popped popcorn (~1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden syrup (or dark corn syrup)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon bourbon [optional]

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
2. Pop up 12 cups of popcorn -- I used 1/2 cup mixed-color corn kernels in my air popcorn popper. Pour the popped popcorn into two large bowls.
3. In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking the butter until it is foamy and the butter begins to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and golden syrup. Add in the salt and stir to combine.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture begins to boil, let it continue boiling for five minutes without stirring.
5. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat carefully stir in the baking soda, vanilla extract, and Bourbon -- the mixture will be very foamy.
6. Working quickly, pour the caramel evenly over the popcorn in each bowl. Stir to combine, then turn the contents out onto the greased baking sheet.
7. Bake for 30 minutes in the oven, stirring after 15 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven, spread the caramel popcorn into a single layer on a large piece of parchment paper, and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container (if you can handle not eating the whole panful of caramel corn in one sitting!).