Crackerjacks are a very easy to make...... require common pantry ingredients..... and satisfy almost EVERYONE's sweet tooth!!
This recipe is always a hit at birthday parties and can be made ahead of time. I hope you like them as much as we do!!
1 bag of microwave popcorn (see note)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Karo corn syrup (the clear kind)
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 cup butter cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 250° and lightly spray a large baking sheet (with sides) with vegetable spray and put it in the oven while it preheats (see note below).
In a medium size sauce pan, bring the brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, butter and salt to a simmer. Cook (and stir) until this mixture reaches 250° on a candy thermometer (it only takes about 3 or 4 minutes). Just make sure you stir it the whole time.
While the mixture is simmering, pop the bag of popcorn in the microwave then spread it out on the prepared (warm) baking sheet and put it back in the oven to stay warm (add nuts at this stage if you are going to use them). (Tip: make sure to remove any un-popped popcorn "duds"). (see note below)
When the caramel mixture reaches 250°, remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Stir until very well mixed (it will turn the mixture a lighter tan color and get foamy which is what you want..... takes about 20 seconds).
Pour over the warm popped corn and gently stir to coat. Bake coated popcorn in the 250° oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
After it has baked one hour, turn it out onto some waxed paper and let it cool (it cools VERY fast). When completely cool, break apart any large pieces. Make sure you store these completed crackerjacks in air tight container (I use Ziplocks).
NOTE: I use one bag of lightly salted microwave popcorn. Personally, I don't think the heavy butter flavored variety would taste right, although I'm sure it would work.
NOTE: Make sure the baking sheet that you use has sides. I used my roaster pan and it worked well. You just want the sides to be tall enough, so that, when you stir the coated corn you won't lose any pieces over the edge.
NOTE: Instead of spraying my baking pan with vegetable spray, I like to use the new-ish "no stick aluminum foil". Either way works well.
NOTE: Be careful while you are stirring this caramel sauce so you don't get it on your skin (it is dangerously hot).
CLEAN UP TIP: This cooked caramel sauce gets VERY hard as it cools, so I suggest that you put your dirty utensils (and pan) in hot soapy water to soak a little while before you try to wash them. It makes clean up a LOT easier.