Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Only Caramel Snack Mix You'll Ever Need

For the past few years, I've been throwing together some kind of snack mix for my friends' annual Halloween party. My thinking is that it's always good to have something to snack on before the drinking begins. I've tried a variety of different mixes and coatings, but I think I've finally tried the last recipe I'll ever need. Is there proof for this? Well, the bowl was completely empty by the end of the night (which has never happened before), so I'm pretty sure this one's a keeper.

As with most snack mixes, feel free to play with the ingredients. This year I opted for popcorn, corn Chex, Fritos, and (after the baking) M&Ms. You could easily add nuts (pre-baking), other cereals (pre-baking), dried fruit (pre- or post-baking), tortilla or potato chips (pre-baking), pretzels (pre-baking), or any other kind of candy (post-baking). You can also vary the amount you add - I like all my ingredients to get some of the caramel, but not to be drenched, but if you prefer a more uniform covering of caramel, use 2-4 cups less of ingredients.

The Only Caramel Snack Mix You'll Ever Need
12 cups salted popcorn
6 cups rice or corn Chex
3 cups Fritos
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 250°. Combine popcorn, Chex, and Fritos (or whatever other ingredients you are using that will not melt) in one or two roasting pans.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep the temperature as low as possible, as the caramel can burn easily. Once it starts to boil, this may be a very low temperature - you just want to keep it at that state.

After 5 minutes of boiling, remove the caramel from the heat. Stir in the vanilla, then stir in the baking soda. This will cause the caramel to expand.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn mix, and toss the mix to make sure the caramel gets on everything.

Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring everything and scraping up the extra caramel halfway through.

Remove from pan(s) into a large bowl to cool. You may need to break apart some of the pieces as they cool. Once the mix is not warm to the touch, add in any candies and toss to distribute.

If there's any left after you serve it (and there won't be), store it in an air-tight container.

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