Introducing Sweet Tweaks, a New Serious Eats Bake-Along Contest

Introducing Sweet Tweaks, a New Serious Eats Bake-Along Contest
This recipe appears in:
Reminder: Sweet Tweaks Contest Deadline Monday Sweet Tweaks Contest Deadline Extended

Always adding or substituting ingredients, adjusting techniques and altering presentations, I tend to see recipes as malleable inspiration more than rigid structure. Following your comments from week to week, I get the sense that many of you are the same way.

With you recipe-hackers in mind, we're creating a forum to tweak and tinker to your hearts' content, gain inspiration from others, and vie for the chance to win the honor of Sweet Tweak of the Week.

Beginning this week, we'll post a new, fairly basic recipe rife with possibility. Over the weekend, we'll leave it to you to add new flavors, apply unique techniques, create novel juxtapositions, titillating presentations and otherwise do your thing to transform our ordinary recipe into some truly serious eats.

Our only rule is that the original recipe must remain recognizable in the finished product and/or description—no lime-gelatin molds if we’ve provided a recipe for coconut bread pudding.

When you’ve finished tweaking the week's recipe, submit a brief description of your creation (30 words, maximum) and an image of it (this is not required but will significantly increase your chances of winning) by 10 a.m. Monday morning. Monday afternoon we will post submissions for voting, and Wednesday afternoon we’ll announce the winner: the Sweet Tweak of the Week.

The Inaugural Sweet Tweak: Caramel Popcorn

With so much recent talk of candy and corn and candy corn, let's focus on candied corn, more specifically, caramel popcorn.

Manipulate the flavor of caramel popcorn—use it as a coating or a component in a dessert, sculpt it, pulverize it, whatever, just be creative and have fun, and don’t forget to take a photo or two if you can. Happy tweaking!

How to Enter

Get the Recipe: It follows, after the jump. Then tweak it in some way, as described above
Submit your Sweet Tweak to:
Include: A brief description (30 words or thereabouts)—and a photo or two, if possible
Deadline: 10 a.m. ET, Monday, October 20, 2008


  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (26g)
  • 1/3 cup popping corn (~80g)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (84g)
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup (80g)
  • 1 cup sugar (210g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda


  1. 1.

    Line a two baking sheets with silicone baking sheets or lightly greased aluminum foil and set aside.

  2. 2.

    Place a large pot over medium high heat. Add cooking oil and a few kernels of the corn and cover. When kernels begin to pop, add the remaining popping corn. Cover pot and shake regularly until all kernels have popped. Remove lid and remove pot from heat, but leave popcorn in warm pot.

  3. 3.

    Melt butter in large sauce pan or small stock pot (you’ll need plenty of room to stir the popcorn around at the end) over medium-high heat. Add corn syrup and sugar and stir continuously with a heatproof spoon or spatula until mixture begins to boil.

  4. 4.

    At the boil, stop stirring and allow mixture to continue to boil until it turns a light blonde color with spots of amber beginning to appear (300F), about 5 minutes.

  5. 5.

    Add salt and soda to sugar mixture and stir well to distribute.

  6. 6.

    Turn off the heat, and add reserved popcorn to mixture, stirring quickly and gently until sugar mixture is evenly distributed. Immediately turn popcorn out onto prepared trays, spreading the pieces out as much as possible while caramel coating is still very hot. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container for several days.

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