October 13, 2011 | 1:05pm
With the Arizona State Fair headed our way tomorrow, we at Chow Bella decided on our latest challenge: Create a "fair food" that kicks it up a notch No one dared to cook with bugs, but we did have some creative entries. Check back later this week, when critic Laura Hahnefeld will choose her favorite.
Today: Amy Silverman shares her little popcorn experiment.
For the latest Chow Bella showdown, I decided to go with an "elevated" version of a carnival/fair classic: caramel corn. After a long hunt, I landed on a recipe
from Real Simple
magazine, which I chose primarily because there was no candy thermometer involved.
Find out what went right -- and what went wrong -- after the jump.
First of all, you need to know that I cheated. I did not make my own popcorn. I bought a bag of Vic's pre-popped white corn at Safeway. That worked out nicely and allowed me to go straight to the caramel process.
That worked out nicely, too. Basically (you can see the recipe I linked to for details) you boil brown sugar, corn syrup and butter (I know -- super healthy) and a few other ingredients and toss the popcorn in it.
I made a second batch of caramel next, and tossed the pecans (a small bag, chopped) and crumbled, cooked bacon (a small package of the pre-cooked Oscar Mayer variety; if I was doing it again I'd spring for something applewood-y from Whole Foods) in the caramel, then mixed the two batches.
And then I really screwed up. The whole idea of adding chocolate at all was hotly debated at the office before I made the caramel corn. I was advised against it, but figured everything's better with chocolate, right?
That might have been the case, had I allowed the popcorn/pecan/bacon mixture to cool completely before adding a small bag of mini chocolate chips.
Whoops. I wound up with a melted chocolate mess, and no time to re-do the recipe. Luckily the popcorn stayed firm and crunchy even after the chocolate assault. so it wasn't a total loss -- I was able to bag it, add festive rainbow sprinkles (I thought they were festive, anyway), and save the whole thing looks-wise with some trendy bakery twine.
But I won't be winning any awards. Or making that mess again.