June 20, 2012

Salty Sweet Delicious Treat

One of my favorite treats when I was young was homemade caramel corn.  Now let me tell you, this was a rare treat indeed.  I nearly had to beg with tear-filled eyes to get it because making it left a sink full of dirty dishes and a bit of a mess in the kitchen.

My grandmother would would make the popcorn on top of the stove, as we didn't have a microwave then, and then she would make the caramel and drizzle it on top of the popcorn and mix it up as fast as possible before all hardened.

There is nothing like it.  The caramel corn you buy at the grocery store can't even come close to homemade.  There are pieces that are just barely kissed with caramel, then there are other pieces that are fully enrobed in caramel...  nothing perfect and homogeneous about Grandma's caramel corn and that is part of what made it so good.

I wanted to put a  twist on this most delicious treat and elevate it to something you could actually serve to guests (not that I wouldn't put out a big trough of caramel corn, but you know what I mean).

Instead of making a traditional dulce de leche, I know there is a "cheat" method which simply involves simmering the can with a few holes poked through the top.  I must be honest, this never appealed to me. 

I'm a bit of a purist with most things and I will admit, simmering milk in a can was a bit unsettling and it seemed kind of lazy.   Those of you that have done it, I know what you're thinking, so let me save you the trouble. 

Shame on me.  It was AWESOME!  I thought it would somehow taste metallic (it didn't) and that it couldn't possibly be as good as making it the "right" way (it was damn close).

It was almost zero effort except for a little whisking when it came out of the can.  It couldn't have been easier.  Really. 

This revelation has made me seriously question why I was so snobby about not making it like this before.   I doubt that I'll give up my purist ways, but once in awhile when I'm short on time or energy, this will be my method of choice.

Salted Dulce de Leche Popcorn Tart
makes 3 - 4" tarts or 1- 9" tart
  • 1 can sweetened, condensed milk
  • 8 cups popcorn (buy it, pop it on stove, microwave...  doesn't matter)
  • 4 tbsp butter, room temp
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Carefully make 3 holes in the top of the can by hammering a nail through the lid.  (I am shaking my head as I'm typing this...  I can't believe this is a step in a recipe).  Most people only make 2 holes, but I felt better giving the pressure inside the can another outlet from which to escape.  Exploding can of condensed milk was not on my agenda.

Set the can inside of a pot and fill with water until the water is about 3/4 the way up the side of the can.  Bring to barely a simmer and let it go for 4 hours.  You will have to replenish the water occasionally so that the level doesn't get too low.  You want to make sure the water is at least halfway up the side of the can at all times.

After 4 hours, carefully remove can from hot water and open.  Pour contents into a bowl & whisk about 4 - 5 minutes until smooth.   That's it.  Really.

To make popcorn crust:  Combine popcorn, butter, sugar, salt & pepper in food processor and blitz until rubble.

Press the popcorn mixture into tart mold(s).  I prefer the ones with a removable bottom, it makes getting the tart out much easier.  Use a small measuring cup or glass with a flat bottom to press into the sides and bottom of tart to make sure everything is even.

Refrigerate for an hour.  This will allow everything to set up, the butter to harden, etc.  Place into a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Pour dulce de leche into cooled popcorn crust and top with flakes of sea salt.  Dig in.

1 comment:

  1. I've not tried this method but I've been told it works as well. Use a crock pot for cooking the sweetened condensed milk on low for 8 hours. You don't have to worry about making sure to replenish the water.