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.
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 4 or 5 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. (Tip: remove any un-popped popcorn "duds").
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 VERY LIGHTLY dust it with table salt (omit this step if you are using super salty popcorn).
Let the crackerjacks cool (doesn't take long at all). Once they are completely cool, break apart any larger pieces and store in an airtight container (or Ziploc bag).
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 that, when you stir the coated corn you won't lose any over the edge.
NOTE: Be careful while you are stirring this caramel sauce so you don't get it on your skin (it is dangerously hot).
Once you turn the finished crackerjacks out onto waxed paper, it cools down very quickly and it is lightly crunchy and not at all sticky as long as you keep it in an airtight container.
CLEAN UP NOTE: 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 before you try to wash them. It makes clean up a LOT easier.