This recipe for my homemade “Moose Munch” caramel corn (made with honey instead of corn syrup) is probably the most popular Christmas treat that we give to our family and friends. I had to share it for two reasons:
- Everyone tells me their family fights over this holiday treat and they have to make sure it’s equally distributed to keep the peace.
- I can only make this one time a year or I will eat it all in a sitting, a-hem.
Anything that good deserves a place in the Christmas line-up, right?
Since some people shy away from making caramel corn (you know, hot syrup, candy thermometers and all that), I’m going to walk you through the steps so you can see how easy it is- really. And here are two things you won’t find in my recipe (that I adapted from a recipe in Brian’s Kansas grandmother’s vintage “Farm Journal” cookbook):
- corn syrup
- candy thermometers
So now there really are no excuses. Except for all the sugar and butter part, but we won’t bother about that right now, okay?
First you need to make the caramel corn, let it cool completely and then coat half with melted chocolate and then let that cool completely before mixing the two back together. So you’ll need to plan to make this a few days before serving or gifting.
How to Easily Make Honey Caramel Corn
1. The first step is simply to pop some popcorn. I use an air popper because it’s easy. You can make it however you choose.
2. Then spread it in a large, oiled roasting pan. The most important thing to remember, though is this:
Leave all the unpopped kernels and “old maids” in the bowl when you transfer the popcorn to the pan. Your teeth (and your family’s teeth) will thank you.
3. Now set the pan of popcorn in a 250 degree oven to warm while making the caramel.
4. To make the caramel, place the butter, sugars, and honey in a large saucepan set over medium heat and melt it together.
5. Stir until you start to see some gentle bubbles on the surface, similar to the picture (I really tried to get a picture of this, but the light and camera weren’t cooperating, though I think it’s close).
6. When you see the gentle bubbles, set a timer for 5 minutes.
7. Continue to stir for the full 5 minutes. The mixture will start boiling a bit harder, but never get crazy on you. However, I always make caramel in a large (4-qt) saucepan, just to give it all the room it might need. I have no spits or overflows with this, though you should take care, because it’s hot and will burn at this point (not that you wouldn’t have figured that out – I just want to cover all the bases).
8. When the timer goes off (see? no thermometers!) remove the pan of popcorn from the oven and pour the caramel mixture over the popped corn. Mix with a large spoon until most of the popcorn is evenly coated.
9. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, stir the pan of caramel corn again and then return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Prep a counter space with two large pieces of waxed paper or parchment.
10. Immediately pour the hot caramel corn onto the waxed paper, spreading it out over the paper to cool. Cool completely, and then break into as small pieces as possible.
Ta-da, you’ve made caramel corn!
How to Make the Caramel Corn into ‘Moose Munch’
1. Divide the cooled caramel corn in half. Place one half in an airtight container. Place the other half in a large bowl.
2. Melt 12 oz. of chocolate chips (you can use any chocolate you’d like: milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate), pour over the caramel corn in the bowl and mix thoroughly.
3. Spread the chocolate-covered caramel corn back onto the waxed paper and use a couple of forks to separate the pieces as much as you can so that it will be easier to distribute the chocolate corn with the plain caramel corn.
4. Let it sit until hardened completely (I usually let it sit overnight, covered with plastic or wax paper).
5. When the chocolate is firm, mix it together with the plain caramel corn.
I recommend that you bag it up as fast as you can.
- Honey Caramel Corn:
- ⅔ c. unpopped popcorn
- ½ c. butter
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- ½ c. brown sugar (you could probably use all sucanat in place of both sugars- then end product might be a bit grainier, but still good!)
- ¼ c. honey
- ½ tsp. salt
- To Make "Moose Munch:"**
- 12 oz. chocolate chips of choice- milk, semisweet, or dark (or other melting chocolate)
- Make the Caramel Corn (an excellent regular caramel corn recipe on it's own, too!):
- Heat oven to 250 degrees. Pop the popcorn and spread it in a large, oiled roasting pan. Put the pan in the oven to stay warm and crisp (it also helps to spread the hot caramel evenly on warm popcorn).
- Combine the butter, sugars, honey, and salt in a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir while mixture melts and starts gently bubbling. Set a timer for 5 minutes and stir constantly while mixture gently boils.
- At the end of 5 minutes, remove from heat. Take the pan of popcorn out of the oven and pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn, stirring to coat the popcorn evenly.
- Return to oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring once at the 15 minute mark and again when it's done (a piece removed with a spoon will be crisp to the bite). While caramel corn is cooking, prep a cooling area on a counter with two large pieces of waxed paper.
- Immediately pour the hot caramel corn onto the waxed paper and spread evenly to cool, breaking up bigger pieces so that there will be smaller pieces to coat with the chocolate.
- Make it "Moose Munch" caramel corn:
- Divide the cooled caramel corn in half. Place one half in an airtight container and the other half in a large bowl.
- Melt the chocolate and pour it over the caramel corn in the bowl; stir to coat well (if using any optional ingredients,* sprinkle over or stir them in with the chocolate).
- Spread the chocolate-covered caramel corn back onto the waxed paper and use a couple of forks to separate the pieces as much as possible. You're aiming for individually coated pieces that will mix in with the plain caramel corn. Let cool completely (I usually wait overnight to be sure).
- When the chocolate is firm, toss the plain caramel corn with the chocolate caramel corn. Bag up for gifts or store in an airtight container for up to a week (I have even frozen this for a few weeks and it was still good!).
**For a PEPPERMINT CRUNCH Caramel Corn variation, coat half the caramel corn with white chocolate (instead of semi sweet or milk chocolate), sprinkling crushed candy canes over it before it dries. Mix together and bag up like usual.
You may enjoy these other Christmas treats: