I’m basically a kid at heart who adores celebrating holidays of all kinds, and that trait comes through at Halloween. I love everything about it – decorating, dressing up (usually in something scary), making a fuss over the little ones who come costumed to our door, and creating fun-to-eat treats.
As soon as October arrives, I give our front porch autumn décor a Halloween makeover. Bright orange pumpkins cut into jack-o-lanterns get tucked in among baskets of yellow and bronze chrysanthemums. Scarecrows with smiling faces join witches with stern expressions, and wispy spiderwebs hanging from light fixtures cast eerie shadows at night.
In my kitchen, I decorate countertops with silk autumn leaf garland, fresh yellow chrysanthemums, pinecones, pumpkins to use later for making pies, breads, cakes, and soups, and a collection of ceramic jack-o-lanterns that make me smile. Surrounded by this festive Halloween backdrop, I’m always inspired to create treats guaranteed to appeal to hungry ghosts of all ages.
One of my favorites is Halloween Caramel Popcorn. This easy-to-make recipe requires just six ingredients. A big bowl of caramel popcorn is the ideal snack to enjoy with a frightening Halloween movie.
Halloween Caramel Corn
12 cups popped popcorn (¾ cup corn)
¾ cup unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
½ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a large roasting pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour the popped popcorn into the pan.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter, stir in brown sugar, and cook 2 minutes until the brown sugar has partially dissolved. Stir in corn syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook 5 minutes without stirring.
Remove the caramel from the heat, add vanilla, and stir to mix.
Slowly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Spray a large wooden spoon with nonstick cooking spray and gently stir the caramel into the popcorn. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to distribute the caramel that melts to the bottom of the pan.
After 1 hour, remove the caramel corn from the oven, stir well, and set it aside to cool. Break it apart with your hands when the caramel corn is warm to the touch; then, finish cooling. When the caramel popcorn is completely cool, divide it among individual cellophane bags and tie them with orange and black ribbon.
Yield: 6 quarts caramel popcorn
For neighbors or trick-or-treaters I’ve watched grow up on our block, I love to scoop it into individual clear cellophane bags, tie them with black, gold, and orange ribbon, and pile them into a basket for easy gift giving. It’s fun watching kids’ eyes light up when I drop a bag of homemade, buttery caramel popcorn into their Halloween sack, and it’s hard to beat the neighbors’ smiles when I stop by their door with an unexpected treat.
This basic recipe provides plenty of room for variation. For hazelnut caramel corn, sprinkle chopped, toasted hazelnuts into just-popped popcorn, then add three tablespoons of hazelnut syrup along with the corn syrup while making the caramel. Or, for a simpler upgrade, once the basic caramel corn has completely cooled, gently stir in candy corn, chocolate chips, or M&M’s.
Whether you enjoy the caramel corn as is or tweak the recipe to suit your taste, it’s utterly irresistible. Happy Halloween!