I have not had much motivation to bake this year.
For the past few years around the holiday season, I have pulled out the family recipe book, my Big Book of Illustrated Desserts, Holiday Cookies, and the latest Bon Appetit and Food & Wine to pick out the selection of cookies I will bake. My initial list is usually more ambitious (Marmalade Ginger Snaps!) with the final cut being more practical and family-tradition-oriented. I make Pizelles, or as my family calls them, Waffle Cookies, these caramel-chocolate barks made with saltine crackers (no idea what they’re called, but they’re amazing), and peanut butter cookies, for Husband.
This year I had no such desire to bake. Usually when I’m stressed out, I will cook and bake elaborate (and usually with a high degree of failure) dishes to relax. But this semester really took the cake when it came to baking. With only a week to go before leaving for our Texas tour, I still hadn’t made any cookies. So I streamlined my cookie production to narrow it down to three.
I made Rice Crispy treats with Fruity Pebbles, Date Balls, and Caramel Popcorn. That’s it.
I made six microwave bags worth of Caramel Popcorn, and its already gone. I gave some to family and friends as we made our way through Texas, and by the time we got to MIL’s house, we were out.
The recipe follows below; I strongly recommend it for anyone who is already exhausted. Remember, you still have 6 days of shopping left. Stash this in your car—the secret to endurance is keeping your energy high, right?
Microwave Caramel Popcorn
Pop two bags of popcorn, and put into a brown paper grocery bag. Discard unpopped kernels.
In a glass bowl, combine:
1 stick butter
1 C brown sugar
1/4 c light corn syrup
Microwave on high for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave for an additional 3 minutes.
1 T vanilla
1 t baking soda
Stir. Mixture will bubble and foam—it’s really cool. Pour over popcorn in brown paper grocery bag. Fold the top of the bag (to close) and shake your little heart out. Put the entire brown grocery bag in the microwave for one minute. Shake, shake, shake. Put it back into the microwave for one minute. Shake your boot-ay. Microwave for 30 seconds. Shake, and then spread the caramel popcorn on a couple of cookie sheets to cool. If you are OCD like my mother, pick out unpopped kernels while it cools. If you are lazy and hungry like me, start eating the popcorn as it cools (watch out! it’s hot!). When it is cool, break up and put into Ziploc bags.
When I gave it to some friends, they said I should try putting melted chocolate on it to make caramel popcorn balls. I can’t vouch for that. But if you try it, let me know.