Crunch time!

Still looking for the perfect something for your perfect someone?

Several years ago I was determined to make the perfect caramel corn. I've tried several different recipes but always come back to Paula Deen's recipe. Oh, yeah. You know it's going to be good!

7 to 8 quarts popped popcorn
2 cups unsalted peanuts, shelled pumpkin seeds, and/or sunflower seeds
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon maple-flavored pancake syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray rimmed cookie sheets or jelly-rolled pans with vegetable-oil cooking spray. (I use my Silpat mats, so I don't have to spray.)

Place the popcorn and your choice of nuts and/or seeds into a very large bowl. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt, syrups and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up. Stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the hot syrup over the popcorn mix. Stir until the popcorn is coated. This is messy; take your time and use a long-handled spoon.

Spread the coated popcorn in the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour, stirring several times. The mixture will be very sticky.

Remove the popcorn from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Break big hunks apart while the mixture is cooling. When cooled, the sugars will have candy-coated the popcorn. Store in large, airtight plastic containers.

Source: Adapted from Paula Deen Celebrates! by Paula Deen.

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