So It Was Hot This Weekend: Ancho Almond Caramel Corn

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

-Perfect for those outdoor picnics, baseball games, or if you have the munchies.-

It is 98 degrees outside. I'm told Fahrenheit, but I believe it to be Celsius because I am sweating like a homo in a hardware store*. The fan is set to full on Arctic Chill, which is more like Delta Breeze because I'm learning that the sun penetrates our house in the warmer months like a hooker's anonymous John making it a veritable hot box of scorchy death.

It's April. People... God... Why is it in the upper nineties in April?!

I'm in the kitchen right now, which is in the hundreds right now because I have the oven preheating and I'm over a gas burner cooking pots full of popcorn and stirring together a caramel sauce. Baked air, coils of steam caressing as much skin and surface as possible, and wrathful sunlight all invade the kitchen at once to destroy me. And I, masochist that I am, am choosing to be here.

Why? Because it's springtime. Baseball season is here. And it's April. And darn it I have a potluck to be at.

-A seriously slammin' potluck.-

One of those great sort of potlucks you have to be lucky to experience, and that I am blessed to be a part of every fourth Sunday when the weather becomes... well, I would say pleasant, but let's say not rainy or cold.

Guests range from artists to caterers, CEO's to lawyers, as well as an intern and publicist for fun. All eclectic. All down to earth. All of them very into food and more than just comfortable with a whisk in their hand.

You will see no prepackaged food. You would be quietly shunned for such a sin.

Instead, people show up with shaved fennel salads, chilled yogurt and cucumber soups, grilled eggplants with herbed lentils, crisps of whatever fruit is in season, and always the most superb bottles of wine.

So for the sake of nostalgia and showing off I'm making caramel corn. To mix it up a bit I'm adding almonds instead of peanuts and a dash of ancho chili powder because in this kind of heat a bit of help sweating is a good thing.

Spicy food - in a strange way - makes perfects sense when it's sweltering outside.

-This, by the way, is the pathway to the garden where the wedding will be held.-

So this popcorn was well-received, devoured by all after too much wine in a beautiful surroundings composed of fountains, terraces, well-kept gardens, and even a Stone Henge. It's the very place we're actually holding the wedding. So as Fiance and I enjoy sitting here laughing with friends, it feels like a small preview for the big event just a few months away.

And, just because I can, I think I'll make sure there's a bowl or two of caramel corn for guests to casually pop in their mouths and laugh over because of the fact that there is caramel corn at the wedding. It just feels right, more fun, more casual when you have snacks like that at events like this.

A touchy of whimsy and ancho make all social events just the better.

Ancho Almond Caramel Corn
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves a whole damn potluck of people

6 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
2 cups roasted almonds

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil and 3 kernels in a 3-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. When the kernels all pop add 1/3 cup of the kernels then take the pot off the heat and count to 30. Place back over the heat and shake the pan. The kernels will begin to pop, place the lid on the pan, but slightly ajar to allow steam to escape (ensuring cripsy corn) while preventing the popcorn from exploding all over your kitchen. When the popping stops pour the popcorn into a large roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining oil and kernels.

2. Preheat oven to 225F. Clean out the sauce pot and place the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses, and salt into the sauce pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 250°F. Remove from heat; stir in the baking soda and the ancho chili powder. The caramel will foam up a little and turn a lighter color when you add the baking soda.

3.  Carefully pour the caramel corn over the popcorn and add the almonds. Stir together until the popcorn and almonds are well coated. Bake for 20 minutes, stir the mixture back together again, and bake for another 20 minutes. Turn the caramel corn out onto some wax paper to cool, then break the mixture up and devour or store in an air-tight container.

*Seems some people were upset about the "homo in a hardware store" line in the last post. One sent a rather incredibly vitriolic e-mail. So...

1) I am a homo.
2) I get flustered in Home Depot because I have no idea what anything is, what it does, or how to use it. This is much to my partner's chagrin.
3) I see how the confusion that this is a jab at the lesbian stereotype. It was not every meant that way and to be honest it didn't even cross my mind because I just don't think of lesbians that way the same way I don't think of gays in a certain way (except how awesome they are).
4) Calm the 'eff down.


  1. I'm going to need your address, because I need to move near to wherever this is and become friends with you all, because this looks and sounds like heaven!

  2. This post has reminded me how much work I have to do before I can host a decent back yard party. Oh my.

  3. Looks delish! This is probably a dumb question since it doesn't sit around long, but any idea how long one can store the popcorn?

  4. That looks amazing--although I don't know how you could stand over the stove to pop that corn etc. if it was 98F out! :)

  5. I wish I could have beautiful parties, but I currently reside in an ugly dorm with a windowless kitchen. Mmm, someday...

  6. Ack, sorry, but the scientist in me cringes - you probably mean it feels like 98 C, not K. Kelvin would mean it felt ridiculously, ridiculously cold (-283 F = 98 K). And unless you're much more heat-tolerant than I am, I'm betting 98 F doesn't feel cold to you.

    However, I plan on hiding from said ridiculous heat by making popcorn now. So thank you, and my apologies for being a science geek :)

  7. Engineer Baker: No no. I rtook Advanced Chem in college. I know the difference. Hyperbole, darling. ;)

  8. I think Engineer guy was pointing out difference between Kelvin and Celsius - being in Oz I have no idea about Farenheit or however you spell it - other than than 100F is about 39C and hot in any temperature scale :-)

  9. Just made this today for my knit night group. I made a few minor subs, airpopped the popcorn, used light corn syrup instead of dark, subbed 1 tsp chipotle chile powder + 1 tsp aleppo chile powder for the ancho powder, and used sliced roasted almonds from Trader Joe's. It came out utterly amazing, love the smokey spiciness with just a hint of salt, it makes for a much more adult treat.

  10. Jenn: Glad that you enjoyed it! =D

  11. Hey, love your blog. but "Homo in a hardware store might sound funny but it made me sad. I'm not a stereotype :(

    - the sad lesbian

  12. Sad Lesbian: I meant it more as a personal reference. Most gay men I know (including myself) sweat in a hardware store cause none of us know what anything is or what it does or how to use it. ;)

    Being gay, I figure I get license to poke fun at the stereotype aimed at me. ;)

  13. Hello Garrett. I would just like to let you know that I was all set to start reading your blog post, but I found the first line so offensive, I am going to have to skip. I find this too bad, since I was really interested in the recipe. Best of luck with your future posts, but I hope you can find better similies than "like a homo in a hardware store."

  14. I love the idea of this . Perfect with chilli which as you know really does help in the heat..... Very nice venue!

  15. Dear Bibliophile: About the Homo in a Hardware store...

    1) Obviously you did not read the comments section where I explained it.

    2) As I am the Homo who gets flustered in a hardware store, you're taking my personal anecdote, which I have fully explained in the comments section, and making it apply to you - which it is not intended to do. If you're still offended at the jab I gave MYSELF, then that's all you. Maybe you SHOULD read past the first sentence to get all the information so that you can make an educated judgment and not a rash one.

    3) I don't mind calling myself a homo, fag, etc. If you have a problem with it, well, that's your baggage. I suggest you don't use those words then.

    4) I get the fluster. Really, I do. But before you start writing a comment you need to ensure you've read the entire post.

  16. Popcorn looks seriously yummy. The table setting is beyond gorgeous - lucky you to get to have your wedding there! I'm not a big fan of heat either. Move up the PNW - you'll never be hot again. :)

  17. Hello Garrett.

    While I can appreciate your self-mockery, that still doesn't change the fact that I and another commentator found the statement problematic. I apologize for the obvious frustration our concern has caused you, since it was not my intent to offend, but merely to let you know as politely as possible that I was bothered by the comment, no matter WHO wrote it. As for your first point, I in fact did read the comments made by "sad lesbian" and others before deciding to add my own voice; I did so because I felt it important to let you know that in spite of your intention in choosing the phrase, I still found the statement distasteful. I thank you for explaining that your "intended jab" was self-directed, but I remain troubled by the perpetuation of stereotypes that can be hurtful to others.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond so quickly, and to clarify your position.

  18. angelitacarmelita@verizon.netMay 8, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    People need to chill. I speak for myself, but agree that if you can't make fun of yourself, then what's the fun at all! Seriously, love your blog, love the posts BECAUSE of your humor. And thanks for the spanking recipe! Keep doing what your doing Garrett.

  19. Couldn't Sacramento have stayed between 75 and 83 degrees for more than like 1 week? Can't wait until July when it's 103! Joking.

    Seriously now, how I can join this potluck party?

  20. Couldn't Sacramento have stayed between 75 and 83 degrees for more than like 1 week? Can't wait until July when it's 103! Joking.

    Seriously now, how I can join this potluck party?

  21. Yep.. I agree. If you ever start having a lot of people having car trouble in front of your house you will know the word is out on where you live... Looks so good.


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