A few weeks back, the photo shoot took place for my new cookbook, tentatively titled, “The Vintage Baker,” (Chronicle Books, April 2018). I was over the moon about the team Chronicle put together for the shoot: Alice Gao photographed all of the (delicious) sweets and treats and Diana Yen of The Jewels of New York was the stylist. I don’t think I need to tell you that the pictures are AMAZING (if you don’t know Alice and Diana’s work, check out their Instagram feeds). And although I wish I could share the photos with you RIGHT NOW, the powers that be require that I wait . . . But what I will share is a recipe for homemade cracker jacks from Diana Yen/The Jewels of New York’s cookbook, “A Simple Feast.” The book is beautiful and it is full of so many scrumptious-sounding recipes. However, I’m a candied popcorn fanatic from always, and so . . . homemade cracker jacks for the win. I tweaked the recipe just a tad: substituting Lyle’s Golden Syrup for the light corn syrup and peanuts for the almonds (like the boxed version, I love too much). I added extra salt and vanilla, a bit of baking soda, more popcorn, and I used a candy thermometer, to ensure I pulled the caramel at the right time (my first batch of caramel – made without the thermometer – was a tad overcooked). The recipe is easy and the finished corn, super yummy. Perfect for snacking on while binge watching “You Better Call Saul,” if you must know.
Homemade Cracker Jacks
- 12 cups of unsalted popcorn
- 1 cup salted peanuts preferably with the red skins . . .
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Lyles Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon's
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 250-degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place the popcorn and peanuts in a large heat-proof bowl, toss together, and set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar, syrup, molasses, and salt in a small heavy bottomed sauce pan and stir to combine with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the sauce pan, and bring the caramel to 240-245 degrees (I brought mine closer to soft-ball/ 240-degrees).
- Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and baking soda - the mixture will bubble up, so be careful. Stir to combine with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, pour the caramel over the nuts and popcorn and then stir again until all of the corn and nuts are covered in caramel.
- Transfer to the two prepared sheets and bake for about 40 - 50 minutes, rotating the pan every 10 minutes or so, and gently stirring the popcorn with a heatproof metal spatula. I find this easier to do on the counter top, so I take my sheets out each time I stir.
- Let the corn cool until you can touch it without burning your self, and use your hands to toss the popcorn and separate any clumps - I like each kernel to be separate and loose, but if you're into clumpy, by all means skip this step.
Find more candy recipes here!