Popcorn is a staple for a movie night. If you’re tired of the classic butter or cheese variant and want to up your junk food game for that cheat day you’ve been waiting for, the caramel would be perfect for you! However, enjoying caramel popcorn requires some extra steps, which sometimes include baking.
Many people bake caramel popcorn to dry it out and keep it crunchy for longer. Otherwise, the excess moisture from the caramel sauce will move into the popcorn and make it soggy. In addition, baking melts the sauce so it can spread and coat the popcorn more easily.
While people have different ways and styles of enjoying their popcorn at home, this article will discuss whether it’s necessary to bake caramel popcorn, how to do it, and the best sugar to make the caramel. Enjoy reading!
Do You Have To Bake Caramel Popcorn?
Now that you know why some people bake caramel popcorn, you may want to try it yourself, too! But then again, is it really necessary?
You don’t have to bake caramel popcorn. Baking it is only a matter of preference—whether you want that guarantee that your popcorn will last until you’re done with your movie marathon or if you want a more even flavor in every pop.
There’s no definite answer as to how long your popcorn can keep its crunchy goodness without baking. But it certainly will get soggy in a few hours due to the residual moisture from the caramel creeping into the less moist popcorn.
Moreover, since caramel is a hygroscopic substance that readily absorbs moisture from the air, it can also contribute to the speed by which your popcorn becomes soggy.
The humidity in your area may also affect how quickly your caramel popcorn loses its crunch. That’s why some people find it necessary to dry it out as much as possible with dry heat in the oven.
However, baking caramel popcorn may be a waste of time if you want to dive right in and enjoy your snack immediately. It’s because most recipes online recommend that you keep the snack in the oven for around thirty minutes to one hour.
How Do You Bake Caramel Popcorn?
You need to pop the corn kernels first, melt the caramel, and toss them together before you can start to bake caramel popcorn. It may be time-consuming, but it’s pretty easy to do.
Here are the steps to bake caramel popcorn:
- Preheat the oven to 250°F (121.11°C).
- Spread the freshly-cooked, caramel-coated popcorn evenly on a baking pan with a baking sheet.
- Bake the popcorn for 30 minutes to one hour or until it becomes as crispy as you want.
- Toss it every 10 – 15 minutes.
- Take the caramel popcorn out of the oven and let it cool for at least five minutes before eating.
Depending on how much moisture you got out of your popcorn, you may store some for around five days to one week as long as you keep them in an airtight container. Be sure that the caramel has cooled down enough before sealing because it continues releasing moisture while it’s still hot.
Sealing hot caramel popcorn right away defeats the purpose of baking it because the water that evaporates will condense in the container as it cools, risking moisture reabsorption into the snack.
If you want to see how to make caramel popcorn from the beginning, check out this YouTube video:
What’s the Best Sugar To Use in Making Caramel Popcorn?
Various types of sugar bring about different levels of sweetness to your popcorn. Some of the common sugars used in making caramel for popcorn include brown sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, and honey.
The best sugar to use in making caramel popcorn is white sugar because it’s the least hygroscopic. Therefore, it doesn’t absorb as much moisture from the air as the other types of sugar and, thus, can keep your popcorn crunchy much longer.
Let’s take a look at the qualities of these sugars:
As discussed, white sugar is the least hygroscopic among the sugars on the list, mainly because it consists of pure sucrose. However, using only white sugar may result in grainy caramel. Most people add corn syrup or lemon juice to the mixture to prevent this from happening.
Brown sugar is also an excellent ingredient for caramel due to its rich taste. It contains roughly 90% sucrose and 3 – 10% molasses. A higher percentage of molasses results in a darker color and higher hygroscopic quality, making the sugar look moist.
Some people may claim that brown sugar is better than white sugar, and they may be right. It all depends on their preference since different types of sugars have distinct flavors.
While you may often see maple syrup as a condiment for pancakes and waffles, some people use it as an ingredient to make caramel. It comes from the sap of various species of maple trees and consists predominantly of sucrose and small amounts of glucose and fructose.
Honey is another great alternative to make sugar-free caramel. Heating it brings out exciting flavors that could make your caramel popcorn tastier. However, like white sugar, honey may crystallize quickly, so adding some lemon juice to the recipe is best.
It contains roughly 50% fructose, which is the most hygroscopic among various types of sugar. As a result, your caramel popcorn will become soggy much sooner.
On the other hand, this quality makes honey ideal for cakes and other pastries that require a certain amount of moisture to prevent them from becoming hard or stale.
Food preparation may seem to be based on preference, but they’re often backed by science. Although not entirely necessary, it may be helpful to be familiar with chemical properties and reactions in food to enhance flavor and storage techniques.
If you’re planning to make caramel popcorn for the first time—with the information discussed in the article—feel free to try out various types of sugar and decide whether you want to bake the snack or not. It’ll help you find the recipe that best works for you and your guests.