This snack has all the traditional elements of Cracker Jacks—peanuts, popcorn, and caramel—but the flavors are kicked up a notch. Each little peanut nugget is an addictive combination of spicy, sweet, and salty flavors. It will keep for up to three weeks, stored in an airtight container.
- Yield:Makes 12 cups
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 hour, 30 minutes
- For the Spicy Peanuts:
- 2 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons sugar (white, light, or dark brown)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- For the Caramel Corn:
- 10 cups freshly popped popcorn (popped without added salt or fat)
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To make the peanuts, preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, salt, chili powder, and cayenne in medium bowl. Toss until peanuts are well-coated. Transfer peanuts to baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until nuts around edges of pan are beginning to darken, 15 minutes.
Allow nuts to cool completely on baking sheet. They will stick together, almost like brittle. Break nuts into bite-sized pieces. Spicy peanuts can be made up to one week in advance.
To make the caramel corn, preheat the oven to 200ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine popcorn and peanuts in large bowl.
In medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, clip candy thermometer to side of pan, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 238ºF. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
Pour hot caramel over popcorn and peanuts. Toss until evenly coated. Transfer popcorn mixture to baking sheet and bake 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Caramel corn will keep for 2 to 3 weeks, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.