About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago.
- Yield:makes 10 cups popcorn
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:50 minutes
- ¾ cup popcorn kernels
- 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
- For the Caramel:
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- For the Cheese:
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 ½ tablespoons cheddar cheese powder, divided
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- Kosher salt
Pop popcorn in a large pot, an air popper, a popcorn popper, or a microwave as desired. Separate popcorn into two even batches, placing them in large bowls. You should have about five cups for each batch.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 225°F.
Add butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt to a medium saucepan set to medium-high heat. Whisk to incorporate and bring to a boil. Let bubble untouched for three minutes until gooey and caramel-scented. Remove from heat and add baking soda, whisking to combine.
Pour caramel onto one batch of popcorn, stirring with a spoon until surfaces and crevices are covered. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread caramel corn on baking sheets in a single layer, splitting evenly between the two trays. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven allow to cool completely, until caramel has a glossy, hardened, candy-like appearance.
Meanwhile, combine melted butter, 1 tablespoon cheese powder and Tabasco in a small bowl. Pour mixture over second batch of popcorn. Toss to combine and season with salt, as needed. Sprinkle with remaining cheese powder and stir thoroughly to combine.
Mix caramel and cheese corn together and serve.