Popcorn is one of those rare foods that’s as much fun to make as it is to eat.
All it takes is popcorn, a lidded pot and a little oil to enjoy one of nature’s truly explosive delicacies.
When kernels are heated, moisture trapped inside their waterproof shells vaporizes and expands until the shells burst, creating the percussive rattle that means it’s snack time.
Popped corn is usually seasoned with salt, and butter or margarine. Lovers of variety and chile heat have been known to apply dried spice mixtures as well.
Its main secondary form is sweetened versions, dressed with caramelized sugar right in the cooking vessel, such as kettle corn popular at outdoor festivals. Cracker Jack type snacks have a molasses flavored glaze that increases the crunch factor considerably.
Ancient craving: Archaeologists have found popcorn cobs in a New Mexico cave that are more than 5,000 years old, according to radio carbon testing. Popcorn kernels 1,000 years old, found in Peruvian tombs, were so well preserved that they still popped.
Here’s a recipe where popcorn adds butter, salty crunch to cookies. It’s from Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook,” and makes a delightfully different treat.
Buttered Popcorn Cookies
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
To make the popcorn: Pour the oil over the bottom of a large saucepan that has a lid, and add the popcorn kernels. Move them around in the pan so they are in one layer. Cover the pot, heat it over medium high heat. Once the kernels begin to pop, keep the pan moving until all of the kernels have popped. About 5 to 7 minutes. Toss the popcorn with the salt and melted butter, then transfer to a bowl. Pick out the unpopped kernels. You should have about 4 to 4½ cups of popcorn.
To make the dough: Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In another bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda together. Stir the combined dry ingredients into the butter sugar mixture.
Fold in the cooled popcorn so that it is evenly distributed through the batter, even though it doesn’t seem like it’ll work. It is no big deal if the popcorn breaks up a bit when folding. (I used my hands.)
Scoop a large tablespoon-size mound onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies, because they’ll puff up. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Let them sit on the pan for a few minutes to firm up before transferring them to a rack to cool.
Makes about 24 large cookies.
(From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman).