The other week J. and I waited patiently to board a return flight to Chicago after a long weekend getaway to Los Angeles. We had seats close to the gate giving us a clear view of the parade of deplaning passengers from one of several round trips our plane would make that day from the Midwest to the West Coast. Many wore Chicago-centric sports gear, but it was a tiny woman carrying an enormous shopping bag filled with tins of Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn who stood out.
With numerous locations far beyond the city limits, Garrett has brought the signature scent of caramel that permeates from its shops to the world. In that moment I had a craving for a homemade version. Back in my kitchen, I made salted caramel popcorn with cashews. Rather than fully coating the popcorn in a thick layer of caramel, mine had a lighter touch. The white of the popcorn showed through some kernels more than others striking a balance between salty and sweet.
Makes about 5 cups
5 cups popped popcorn
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon Maldon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
Combine the popcorn and cashews in a large bowl.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. Let the caramel boil without stirring for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and baking soda.
Pour the caramel over the popcorn nut mixture. Use a spatula to toss the popcorn to coat with caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer the popcorn to the prepared sheet pan and spread into a single layer.
Bake the popcorn for 1 hour tossing every 15 minutes to break up any clumps. Let the popcorn cool before serving.
The popcorn can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.